The Great Barrier Reef, in northern Queensland, is a national and international icon, its significance recognised by World Heritage listing. The Reef has its own dedicated agency to oversee management and avoid adverse impacts from development. The sources of these impacts are diverse, ranging from coastal development and shipping, fishing, catchment land uses, and global warming. The Reef is also the subject of considerable attention through ecological and socio-economic research. We would all hope that such an iconic natural region in a wealthy country, receiving so much attention, would be managed to avoid the decline of its outstanding biodiversity. This turns out, however, not to be the case. A new paper, co-authored by Jon Day of the Conservation Planning Group, describes the ongoing decline of the Reef’s biodiversity due to cumulative impacts that are not being managed effectively. The authors describe the Reef’s decline as a risk of “silent extinction”. They recommend a new and extended approach to gathering information in ways that are linked closely to improved management responses.

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