Lady Elliot Island will be the first new climate change ‘ark’ of the Reef Island Refuge Initiative established recently by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
Selected for its outstanding nature conservation values, Lady Elliot Island is one of the most important sites in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area for seabird nesting and an important habitat for marine turtles, manta rays, dolphins, sharks and coral reefs.
A tailored on-ground action program will be developed to expand and accelerate the existing, award-winning environmental work already underway to boost and accelerate the island’s resilience to climate change and other stresses.
The Reef Island Refuge Initiative is a partnership between the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Queensland Government and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, island-based businesses and communities, and research and science agencies. The $14 million 10-year project was established by a $1 million founding donation by UK-based Australian philanthropist Stephen Fitzgerald.
The project will be tailor made to meet the unique needs of the island. It will include elements such as developing detailed resilience and habitat maps for the island and its adjoining coral reefs, climate change impact modelling, piloting novel monitoring technologies such as acoustics, drones, under and above water automated vehicles, thermal imaging, machine learning and more. On ground adaptation and restoration activities and carbon mitigation will also form part of the overall program.
Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort Managing Director Peter Gash said the project will build on and accelerate the award-winning work already underway to improve the island’s sustainability and contribute to a healthy Great Barrier Reef.
“Preserving the natural environment of the Great Barrier Reef is something that I am extremely passionate about,” Mr Gash said.
“Lady Elliot Island is a remarkable place that hosts some of the most extraordinary marine and terrestrial life and we need to do our best to look after them. It has the second highest diversity of breeding seabirds of any island on the Great Barrier Reef and is one of only two places on the Reef where endangered red-tailed tropic birds breed. Endangered loggerhead and green turtles also nest here and it’s renowned as a haven for giant manta rays and many other marine creatures.
“Donations from guests to our carbon offset program have funded 1700 trees to be planted by partner organisation Greenfleet in Barolin Nature Reserve, adjacent to the Mon Repos Turtle Rookery, Bundaberg.
“During their lifetime, these trees will offset more than 450 tonnes of carbon from flights to and from Lady Elliot Island, as well as forming a ‘green curtain’ to protect nesting turtles and turtle hatchlings at Mon Repos from disturbance and disorientation due to artificial light.
“Currently, over 90% of the resort’s energy comes from our solar power plant and we’re aiming to achieve 100% sustainability by 2020.”
The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is working to confirm additional funding partners for the Reef Island Refuge Initiative. These will be announced once specific funding commitments are agreed. The other priority Great Barrier Reef islands that will form part of this initiative will be announced when further project funding is secured.
If you liked this post, you might also like: Turning back the Clock on the Great Barrier Reef.