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World

Key messages

Why world heritage is important

World Heritage sites are places that have outstanding universal value that transcends the significance they hold for a particular nation.

These qualities are expressed in the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention). The World Heritage Convention aims to promote cooperation among nations to protect heritage from around the world that is of such outstanding universal value that its conservation is important for current and future generations.

Understanding the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef became the first coral reef ecosystem to be listed on the World Heritage List in 1981. Its World Heritage listing recognises the reef’s importance to the global community and the need for its protection and preservation for future generations. It was listed for all four natural heritage criteria.

Understanding the Wet Tropics of Queensland

The Wet Tropics of Queensland were World Heritage listed in 1988. They are a major centre of biological diversity and the only habitat for many endemic and threatened species.

Although small in area, the Wet Tropics of Queensland sustain an extraordinary proportion of Australia’s biodiversity. Many species have very restricted distributions which heightens their vulnerability to environmental pressures.

Climate change and invasive species are emerging as major threats to the outstanding universal value of the Wet Tropics of Queensland, changing the distribution patterns and reducing the population densities of many species.

Understanding Riversleigh section of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites

The Riversleigh section of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites is one of the most significant fossil deposits in the world, and the richest known mammal deposit in Australia. The remains of unique Australian prehistoric animals from the last 25 million years have been superbly preserved here in the limestone outcrops.

In 1994 the area's Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) was recognised internationally when Riversleigh, along with Naracoorte in South Australia, was inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Understanding Fraser Island

Fraser Island—also known by its Aboriginal name of K’gari—covers 181,851ha including several small islands off its west coast. The world’s largest sand island, also boasting the world’s largest unconfined aquifer on a sand island, it gained World Heritage protection in 1992. Fraser Island is an outstanding example of ongoing biological, hydrological and geomorphological processes. A place of exceptional beauty, the development of rainforest vegetation on coastal dune systems at the scale found here is unique.

Understanding Gondwana Rainforests of Australia

The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia comprises the major remaining areas of rainforest in South East Queensland extending into North East New South Wales. It represents outstanding examples of major stages of Earth’s evolutionary history, ongoing geological and biological processes, and exceptional biological diversity. A wide range of plant and animal lineages and communities with ancient origins in Gondwana, many of which are restricted largely or entirely to the Gondwana Rainforests, survive in this collection of reserves. The Gondwana Rainforests also provides the principal habitat for many threatened species of plants and animals. These rainforests were entered on the World Heritage Register in 1994.

Key findings—Great Barrier Reef

State

Great Barrier Reef World Heritage natural criteria

The Great Barrier Reef meets all four World Heritage natural criteria: natural phenomena and exceptional natural beauty; representing major stages of earth's history; significant ongoing ecological and biological processes; and contain the most important and significant habitat.

Great Barrier Reef World Heritage condition

While the outstanding universal value (OUV) of the Great Barrier Reef remains in good condition, the overall condition of some key attributes is poor and many have deteriorated since its world heritage listing in 1981.

Pressure

Climate change pressure on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

At a reef-wide scale, climate related variables are already having an effect, and are predicted to have an increasing impact on the Great Barrier Reef's outstanding universal value (OUV).

Coastal development pressure on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

Changes to coastal habitat and reductions in connectivity are having an increasing effect on the Great Barrier Reef's outstanding universal value (OUV).

Land-based run-off pressure on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

Although declining marine water quality is one of the most significant threats to the Great Barrier Reef, agricultural practices are improving resulting in reductions in land-based run-off entering the region and the resulting impact on the Reef's outstanding universal value (OUV).

Direct use pressure on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

At a reef-wide scale, direct use of the region is a significant economic contributor and its impact on the Great Barrier Reef's outstanding universal value (OUV) is projected to increase with population growth.

Crown-of-thorns starfish pressure on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

Crown-of-thorns starfish are a major predator of coral. Evidence suggests increased nutrient loads contribute to more frequent outbreaks which result in coral cover decline and deterioration of the Great Barrier Reef's outstanding universal value (OUV).

Programs

World Heritage List

Natural and cultural places of ‘outstanding universal value’ selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Eye on the Reef

Eye on the Reef program enables anyone who visits the Great Barrier Reef to contribute to its long-term protection by collecting valuable information about the reef health, marine animals and incidents. Contributions range from sharing photos through the app to undertaking rapid surveys of key species. All information collected through the Eye on the Reef program is combined into a centralised data reporting system available to marine park managers and researchers.

Great Barrier Reef Report Card and Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (Paddock to Reef Program)

The Great Barrier Reef Report Card reports annually on inshore marine condition for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. It also assesses progress towards the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan goal and targets aimed at improving land management and the quality of water entering the reef. Assessments are made through the Paddock to Reef program which uses a combination of monitoring and modelling approaches to report on water quality, land management and catchment health indicators including wetland and riparian areas, as well as marine water quality, seagrass and coral health.

This information is also used in reporting to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report

Every five years, the Outlook Report examines the Great Barrier Reef’s health, pressures and likely future. It provides a snapshot of current condition and trend of GBR values and threats (through theme assessments). It also examines progress in protecting the reef through an assessment of management effectiveness.

Key findings—Wet Tropics of Queensland

State

Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage natural criteria

The Wet Tropics of Queensland meets all four World Heritage natural criteria, displaying: features of exceptional natural beauty; outstanding examples of the major stages in the earth's evolutionary history; outstanding examples of ongoing ecological processes and biological evolution; and is a centre of biological diversity and the only habitat for numerous threatened species.

Wet Tropics of Queensland integrity

Invasive species, pathogens and climate change are impacting the outstanding universal value (OUV) of the area.

Pressure

Climate change pressure on the Wet Tropics of Queensland

The Wet Tropics of Queensland is recognised as being extremely sensitive to climate change which is changing the distribution patterns and population densities of many Wet Tropics species.

Invasive species pressure on the Wet Tropics of Queensland

Introduction and spread of invasive species and pathogens throughout the Wet Tropics bioregion is increasing more rapidly than can be managed through existing programs for their removal.

Programs

World Heritage List

Natural and cultural places of ‘outstanding universal value’ selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

State of the Wet Tropics Report – Ancient, threatened and endemic plants of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area

Summarises the current state of knowledge of ancient, threatened and endemic plants in the Wet Tropics of Queensland and identifies management challenges.

State of the Wet Tropics Report – State of aquatic habitats, biodiversity and water resources in the Wet Tropics of Queensland

Summarises the current state of knowledge of aquatic habitats, biota and ecological processes within the Wet Tropics of Queensland.

State of the Wet Tropics Report – Climate Change in the Wet Tropics: Impacts and Responses

Summarises the scientific information about expected changes in Wet Tropics forests in response to climate change. It identifies current management actions being taken in response to climate change and identifies opportunities for further action.

James Cook University – Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change – Global Change Biology

Research program that aims to address knowledge gaps that will increase our capacity to respond to the issue of climate change.

Global warming in the Wet Tropics

Predicted effects of climate change on Wet Tropics rainforests.

Lists of endemic species most vulnerable to climate change.

Threats to ecosystems in the Wet Tropics due to climate change and implications for management

Summarises research of changes and threats to biodiversity in the Wet Tropics bioregion and discusses the implication of these changes for management.

Species resilience: the key to understanding biodiversity in the rainforests of the Australian Wet Tropics

Long-term (>15 years) field-based evidence is showing that a significant number of Wet Tropics’ bird and mammal species are in decline and shifting their distributions. Regional endemics are most adversely affected.

Climate change and the impacts of extreme events on Australia’s Wet Tropics biodiversity

Maps of exposure of vertebrates to temperature extremes, identification and rankings of vertebrate species at greatest risk, and estimates of the resilience and thermal tolerance of vertebrates to temperature extremes.

State of the Wet Tropics Report – Biosecurity Theme Report

Focus of this assessment report is on new and emerging biosecurity threats.

Key findings—Riversleigh section of Australian fossil mammal sites

State

Riversleigh section of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites World Heritage natural criteria

The Riversleigh section of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites meets two World Heritage natural criteria: major stages of earth's history; and ongoing geological processes.

Riversleigh section of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites World Heritage integrity

The Riversleigh World Heritage area is representative of the fossil deposits considered adequate to maintain its outstanding universal value (OUV).

Programs

World Heritage List

Natural and cultural places of ‘outstanding universal value’ selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Key findings—Fraser Island

State

Fraser Island World Heritage natural criteria

Fraser Island meets three World Heritage natural criteria: natural phenomena and exceptional natural beauty; representing major stages of earth's history; and significant ongoing ecological and biological processes.

Fraser Island World Heritage integrity

Fraser Island is sufficiently large, diverse and free from disturbance, and contains all ecosystem components required for viable populations and continued maintenance of natural ecosystem functions.

Pressure

Invasive species pressure on Fraser Island

The introduction of invasive plants and animals to the Fraser Island World Heritage area is having a negative impact on some values.

Tourism pressure on Fraser Island

Increased tourism on Fraser Island World Heritage site is acting as a driver for a number of threats.

Climate change pressure on Fraser Island

Climate change is having an effect on some of the physical characteristics of the Fraser Island World Heritage site.

Programs

World Heritage List

Natural and cultural places of ‘outstanding universal value’ selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Key findings—Gondwana Rainforests of Australia

State

Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage natural criteria

Gondwana Rainforests of Australia meets three World Heritage natural criteria: representing major stages of earth's history; significant ongoing ecological and biological processes; and contain the most important and significant habitat.

Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage integrity

World Heritage values of Gondwana Rainforests of Australia are maintained through a mosaic of sites.

Pressure

Climate change pressure on the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia

Climate change presents one of the greatest challenges for the protection of Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage values.

Invasive species pressure on the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia

Invasive plants, animals and pathogens pose a threat to Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage values.

Programs

World Heritage List

Natural and cultural places of ‘outstanding universal value’ selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Assessment summary

See an overview of gradings for world in the assessment summary.

Last updated
10 July 2017