Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

The ‘Great Southern Reef’: social, ecological and economic value of Australia’s neglected kelp forests

Scott Bennett A B I , Thomas Wernberg A , Sean D. Connell C D , Alistair J. Hobday E , Craig R. Johnson F and Elvira S. Poloczanska G H

A UWA Oceans Institute and School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B Department of Environment and Agriculture, Curtin University, Bentley, WA 6102, Australia.

C Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

D The Environment Institute and School of Biological Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

E CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart, Tas. 7000, Australia.

F Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

G CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Ecosciences Precinct, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.

H Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

I Corresponding author. Email: scott.bennett1@curtin.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 67(1) 47-56 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF15232
Submitted: 17 June 2015  Accepted: 31 July 2015   Published: 27 August 2015

Abstract

Kelp forests define >8000 km of temperate coastline across southern Australia, where ~70% of Australians live, work and recreate. Despite this, public and political awareness of the scale and significance of this marine ecosystem is low, and research investment miniscule (<10%), relative to comparable ecosystems. The absence of an identity for Australia’s temperate reefs as an entity has probably contributed to the current lack of appreciation of this system, which is at odds with its profound ecological, social and economic importance. We define the ‘Great Southern Reef’ (GSR) as Australia’s spatially connected temperate reef system. The GSR covers ~71 000 km2 and represents a global biodiversity hotspot across at least nine phyla. GSR-related fishing and tourism generates at least AU$10 billion year–1, and in this context the GSR is a significant natural asset for Australia and globally. Maintaining the health and ecological functioning of the GSR is critical to the continued sustainability of human livelihoods and wellbeing derived from it. By recognising the GSR as an entity we seek to boost awareness, and take steps towards negotiating the difficult challenges the GSR faces in a future of unprecedented coastal population growth and global change.

Additional keywords: ecosystem services, ecosystem values, temperate reef.


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