While we have a good understanding of the science behind physical threats to the Great Barrier Reef – runoff, ocean acidification, rising temperatures – we have much less information about the human side. How do Australians see the Reef? Do they consider it under threat? What would move them to protect the Reef?
Jeremy Goldberg and colleagues from CSIRO, James Cook University, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority have conducted the largest ever survey about the Reef – questioning more than 9,000 people from all around the country, including local residents, tourists, commercial fishers and tourism operators.
From simply caring to conservation action – Jeremy wants to know how people can be inspired to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
The survey asked Australians to list how inspiring 12 Australian iconic and cultural landscapes were to them, and found that:
- By far, Australians found the Great Barrier Reef to be Australia’s most inspiring landscape
- 76% believe climate changes is a threat to the Reef
- 81% believe it is the responsibility of all Australians to protect the Reef.
People also said they felt strongly connected to the Reef, believing it to be part of their identity as Australians, and that they were proud of its status as a World Heritage Area.
The survey also showed that although most people felt an individual and collective responsibility to protect the Reef, just 53 per cent feel confident that the GBR is well managed.
Jeremy says they hope to continue monitoring the trends in attitudes towards the Reef.
“If we can improve our understanding of the people who use and care about the Reef, we can improve the ways that we communicate with them about conservation, management, and the future,” he says.
Jeremy presented his research at Fresh Science North Queensland 2015.
Fresh Science is a national program that helps early-career researchers find and share their stories of discovery. Almost 180 early-career researchers nominated for Fresh Science 2015, and this was the first year it was held in Townsville. Fresh Science North Queensland was held at James Cook University (training) and Molly Malone’s hotel (public challenge event).
Fresh Science North Queensland was supported by James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.