Griffith University and the Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1997
ISBN 0 868 57872 X
This module presents a series of activities which introduce the nature, scope and purpose of coastal and marine studies. The module shows that an environmental education perspective in teaching about coastal and marine questions, issues and problems can play a very important role in promoting the knowledge, values and skills that can help create sustainable environments for all organisms.
Note to Facilitators: This module introduces many of the key themes in the series of professional development modules designed to enhance the interest, knowledge and skills of teachers in coastal and marine studies. It is advisable that this module, or at least extracts from it, be presented first as it provides an important introduction to the teaching of coastal and marine studies.
The objectives of this workshop are:
There are four activities in this workshop:
|OHT 1||Workshop Objectives|
|OHT 2A||The State of the Coastal and Marine Environment A|
|OHT 2B||The State of the Coastal and Marine Environment B|
|OHT 3||The Scope of Coastal and Marine Studies|
|OHT 4||Australian Territorial Waters|
|OHT 5||Australia's Maritime Zones|
|OHT 6||Schematic View of Australia's Coastal Zone|
|OHT 7||Coastal Landforms, Climate Types and Population Pressures on the Australian Coast|
|OHT 8||Major Uses of the Marine Environment and their Effects|
|OHT 9||Four Systems of the Coastal and Marine Environment|
|OHT 10||The Values Underlying a Sustainable Environment|
|OHT 11||The Role of Education|
|OHT 12||The Three As of Coastal and Marine Studies|
|OHT 13||The Purpose of Coastal and Marine Studies|
|OHT 14||Ten Themes in Coastal and Marine Studies
|Resource 1||Tea Party|
|Resource 2||Ten Themes in Coastal and Marine Studies
|Reading 1||The Coastal and Marine Environment|
|Reading 2||An Overview of Coastal Ecosystems and Their Values|
|Activity 3||Ten coloured balls of wool; ten coloured pens (same colours as wool); ten sheets of chart paper and group name labels for each participant.|
Borgese, E. M. and Ginsbury, N. (eds.) Ocean Yearbooks, University of Chicago Press, published annually.
Davies, G. (1994) The Evolving Coast, Scientific American Library, New York.
Commonwealth Coastal Action Program (1996) Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People: Studies, Policies and Legislation, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra.
Dale, P. (1991) Managing Australian Coastlines, Longman Cheshire Pty Ltd, Melbourne.
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories (1996) Biolinks, Newsletter on Biological Diversity Conservation Actions, Issue No. 10, Biodiversity Unit, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra.
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories (1996) Coastal and Marine Schools Project, Stage 1 - Part 3: Identification of Best Practice, Final Report, Canberra.
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories (1996) State of the Environment Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories (1995) Our Sea, Our Future: Major Findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Canberra.
Underwood, G. and Chapman, S. (1995) Coastal and Marine Ecology of Temperate Australia, University of New South Wales, Sydney.
Manuel, M., McElroy, B. and Smith, R. (1995) Coasts in Conflict, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Moffatt, B. (1992) Marine Studies, Wet Paper Publications, Southport.
Warner, W.W. (1983) Distant Water, Atlantic Monthly Press, Boston.
Living on the Coast: The Commonwealth Coastal Policy, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra, 1995.
Oceanus: The International Magazine of Marine Science, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, M.A.
The Siren, United Nations Environmental Programme, Nairobi, Kenya (Free quarterly newsletter on UNEP's Regional Seas Programs).
The first activity is called "A Coastal and Marine Studies Tea Party". Its aim is to promote initial discussion about the major issues which will arise during the workshop. It also helps to provide a framework for evaluating the workshop. In the concluding activity participants will be invited to review what they have learnt.
This activity introduces the close connections between ecosystems, natural processes, cultural resources, human activities and issues in coastal zone management and the need to maintain biodiversity and achieve ecological sustainability. This activity is based upon a group discussion and a mini-lecture.
Participants learn that a sustainable environment is one in which the natural environment, economic development and social and cultural life are mutually dependent and the interaction between them needs to contribute to the sustainability and enhancement of the quality of people's lives and of the natural environment. Be sure to reinforce the notion that all people can play a part in activities relevant to coastal and marine conservation. Everyone has an impact on the coastal and marine environment even in non-coastal areas because rivers eventually empty into the sea. Thus, Total Catchment Management and projects such as Landcare and Waterwatch are also relevant to coastal and marine studies.
In debriefing the discussion:
This mini-lecture aims to enhance participant's understanding of the scope of coastal and marine studies. The depth of information provided will be influenced by the backgrounds of the workshop participants, the goals of the workshop, and the time available.
Several OHTs (Nos. 3 - 9) and Reading 1 and Reading 2 are provided to give workshop facilitators a broad knowledge base from which they can draw for coastal and marine studies, and to highlight the values behind the concept of a sustainable environment. Facilitators might also find a selection of the OHT Masters located at the back of this manual useful in preparing the mini-lecture.
Note: Instead of a mini-lecture, it may be appropriate at this point in the workshop to have a guest lecture by a local authority on coastal and marine environments. See Module 4 for ideas on accessing and using guest speakers. The aim of the presentation will vary depending upon the backgrounds of participants and the goals of the workshop. Possible aims include: to provide an overview of basic concepts in coastal geomorphology, and/or ecology, oceanography, coastal management, etc; to stimulate interest in local planning issues; etc.
Note: An interesting activity to add at this point could be a case study of a sustainable coastal community that lives by these values. For example, you could show the video Saltwater Dreaming (GBRMPA, 1996) which focuses on traditional and contemporary Aboriginal people's uses of coastal and marine environments.
This activity provides a practical way of exploring, in detail, the inter-connections and relationships between the various dimensions (physical, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, ecological) and themes in the coastal and marine environment.
The activity involves participants in identifying and negotiating links between these themes and dimensions. Participants become representatives of various coastal and marine themes and, when links are found between different themes, these are indicated by wrapping wool around their representatives. By the end of this activity a web of different coloured wools offers a very effective visual representation of the interconnected nature of themes in coastal and marine studies.
The following instructions are written for a group of up to 30 participants. If your group is smaller or larger, you will need to make appropriate adjustments to the number of themes and to group sizes.
The following facilities/materials are required:
The following ten themes should be written (a) on top of separate pieces of chart paper as a heading and (b) on the name labels (3 labels per theme):
Facilitators should familiarise themselves with the scope and importance of these themes by reading Resource 2 (which will be used in the mini-lecture at the end of the activity).
Obtain ten different coloured balls of wool and ten pens/crayons which approximately match these colours. Facilitators will also need enough labels for each person in the group.
Running the Activity
Discuss the connections that were made by the groups. Questions for discussion might include:
The workshop concludes with a second tea party (Activity 1). This helps participants to review their personal developments in learning as a result of the workshop.
Source: Adapted from Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories (1995) Our Sea, Our Future: Major Findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Canberra, pp. 96-103.
The state of the marine environment is : "Generally good but ...
Source: Adapted from Biolinks, Newsletter on Biological Diversity Conservation Actions, Issue No.10, Biodiversity Unit, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra, 1996, p. 12; and Our Sea, Our Future: Major Findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra, 1995, p. 96.
The marine environment is critical to the natural and cultural heritage of the world. Many marine areas support the life cycles of a great diversity of plants and animals and the oceans are an essential part of climatic cycles and other global processes.
Coastal and marine ecosystems and resources provide food, minerals, pharmaceuticals, construction materials and a vast range of other products used by people. They also support fisheries and the growing tourism and recreation industries and play a vital role in transport, and in the culture and lifestyle of coastal communities.
The ultimate goal of coastal and marine studies is to assist in "maintaining biodiversity and ecologically sustainable development. The alternatives are continuing environmental degradation and ecological collapse."
The key issues in managing Australia's environment are interrelated. Because the major source of marine environmental threats lie inland in the catchments, strategic, integrated planning and management in the coastal zone are of paramount importance. Integrated catchment management is probably almost as important to the sea as it is to the land.
Source: Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories (1997) Australia's Oceans: New Horizons, Media Release, Canberra, Map 1.
Source: Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories (1997) Australia's Oceans: New Horizons,Media Release, Canberra, Diagram 1.
Source: Our Sea, Our Future: Major Findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra, 1995, p. 1.
Source: Dale, P. (1991) Managing Australian Coastlines, Longman Chesire, Melbourne, p. 1.
Source: Adapted from Our Sea, Our Future: Major Findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra, 1995, p. 51.
A coloured version of this diagram is also available.
Report Card Subject: Major uses of the marine environment and their effects
|Tourism and recreation (developed and undeveloped)||Coastal strip development; channel dredging and marinas; loss of habitat; shore and beach erosion; social impacts in communities; loss of amenity.(29)||A-C|
|Marine transport (developed)||Chronic spills of oil and hazardous chemicals; occasional large spills; introductions of foreign organisms in ballast waters; dredging of channels etc.||C-D|
|Marine transport (undeveloped)||Operational discharges; occasional oil spills and shipping accidents.(36)||A-B|
|Offshore oil (undeveloped)||Localised effects of exploration and operational discharges. Insignificant oil spills to date but some risk of significant spills exists. Leases may affect establishment of marine protected areas.(37,38)||A-B|
|Fisheries (developed and undeveloped)||Declines of significant stocks; declines in coastal catches; increasing conflicts between commercial and recreational sector in coastal fisheries; widespread serious concerns on effects of trawling on sea floor; concerns on waste of by-catch and effects on ecosystem.(30-35)||B-D|
Source: Adapted from R. O'Donoghue, Natal Parks Board, South Africa.
Source: Adapted from R. O'Donoghue, Natal Parks Board, South Africa.
Source: UNCED (1992) Agenda 21, Chapter 36, p. 2.
Education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of the people to address environment and development issues ... It is critical for achieving environmental and ethical awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behaviour consistent with sustainable development and for effective public participation in decision-making.
|Awareness:||Knowing about coastal and marine environments.|
|Attitudes:||Recognising the importance of ecologically sustainable development, the conservation value of coastal and marine environments, and wanting to care for them.|
|Action:||Practising the scientific skills to monitor and maintain the quality of coastal and marine environments, the social skills to negotiate issues of conflicting values, the practical skills to care for the coast and the sea, and the participatory skills needed to work with others to develop, implement and evaluate action plans to care for coastal and marine environments.|
Source: Adapted from Our Sea, Our Future: Major Findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra, 1995, pp. 34-37
The sustainability of coastal and marine systems depends on Australians knowing about the marine environment, recognising the threats to it, wanting to care for it, and learning the skills to look after it. This includes:
Source: Adapted from Commonwealth Coastal Action Program (1996) Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People: Studies, Policies and Legislation, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra;. and Our Sea, Our Future: Major Findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra, 1995.
Coastal Aboriginal people have been users and custodians of Australia's marine environment for over 40 000 years. When Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders fish, they fish on traditional lands for a subsistence food source. Fishing spots are part of their cultural and traditional knowledge. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have watched their traditional fishing areas being polluted, over-fished, widely publicised and irrevocably changed. They have fundamental indigenous rights to manage, use and protect traditional country including marine and inland waters.
Marine conservation management plans in the Australian Government's marine program recognise the special interests of coastal Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders and seek to involve them in all aspects of planning and management.
The ocean is the cradle of life on earth. Of the 33 major animal groups or phyla, 28 are found in the sea. Life forms, life histories and ecological processes are very different in the sea than on land. The reproductive cycles of marine organisms are often closely linked to water movements and most often have spores or larval stages, some of which are dispersed over large distances. Because of the vagaries of ocean currents the populations of these organisms in a given area can vary from year to year. Marine species, bathed as they are in water, are particularly vulnerable to water-borne pollutants. These differences often necessitate different approaches to marine environmental policy, management and conservation.
Australia's coastal zone organisms are notable for their high proportion of endemic (found only in one area) species. 80% - 90% of the species of marine groups are endemic, or restricted to the temperate southern regions. Very little is known of the true extent of marine biodiversity and many marine organisms remain undescribed. Given that so little is known, precautionary management strategies are important for the conservation of marine biodiversity. Networks of marine protected areas are important as a "catch all" strategy for protecting the majority of species.
Australia is an isolated island continent with a long coastline and shipping is a major economic use of the seas, estuaries and coastlines. Australia ranks as the fifth largest user of shipping in the world. Each year there are around 12 000 overseas shipping arrivals with almost 380 million tonnes of freight. Shipping and port operations produce a variety of environmental impacts including pollution by contaminants and introduction of exotic species in ships' ballast waters or attached to ships' hulls. Port operations lead to loss of habitat from reclamation and dredging, and increased sediment pollution by oil, litter and anti-fouling paints. While ports are among the most disturbed marine environments, technical engineering and management solutions do exist to prevent or minimise many impacts.
As international trade expands, the number of exotic species arriving as stowaways at the world's ports increases. At least 55 species of fish and invertebrates and a number of seaweeds have been introduced either intentionally for aquaculture or accidentally in ships' ballast waters. Blooms of introduced toxic marine algae are a serious problem in Tasmanian and Victorian waters. The Japanese starfish, Asterias amurensis, has established around Tasmania and threatens biodiversity, aquaculture farms and scallop and abalone fisheries. The population of Asterias, in the Derwent estuary is now estimated at 28 million making it the dominant species in the local benthos (bottom-dwelling organisms).
The beach and marine environments are socially and culturally important to Australians. The beach is a major centre for outdoor activities such as bathing, surfing, fishing, boating, exercising and relaxing. The sea also provides inspiration for artists, writers, musicians sailors, adventurers and "ordinary Australians". Recreational fishers are increasingly competing with commercial fishers for dwindling stocks. One survey estimated over 4.5 million Australians go fishing at least once per year. Recreational and sports fishing is also a significant attraction for tourists.
Australia's natural environments, particularly coastal regions, are a major draw-card for overseas tourists. Coastal and marine ecotourism is a fast growing industry in Australia. Although tourism and recreation are generally considered to be 'clean industries' they have many impacts on parts of Australia's coastal strip. Tourist facilities, accommodation, transport and other infrastructure are typically placed close to a particular attraction. Effects of recreational facilities and activities include: dune erosion, loss of habitat, declines in wildlife and fisheries, decline in water quality, destruction of cultural sites, loss of amenity, crime, traffic congestion and building congestion.
A Marine Protected Area (MPA) is any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, that has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect all or part of the enclosed environment. MPAs are a very important legislative tool for marine conservation and management, particularly in protecting biodiversity and achieving sustainable use of marine resources. MPAs can serve the following purposes: conserve nature, protect fish resources, protect cultural heritage and provide tourism, recreation, education and research opportunities. In 1992 Australia had 303 MPAs with a total area of 463 200 square kilometres. About 5.2% of Australia's marine environment is protected as MPAs with about 94% of MPAs lying within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. However, existing MPAs are not adequate to ensure the protection and management of marine biodiversity. Most MPAs are also threatened by activities occurring outside their boundaries. These threats include pollution from land run-off, and coastal development.
Over 80% of the Australian population reside inside the coastal zone. Urban development in the coastal zone has major impacts on the coastal and marine environments. These impacts result from coastal engineering structures including breakwaters and seawalls associated with ports, harbours, canal estates and marinas, and reclamations. Estuaries and the coastal lakes and lagoons in the south-east have been particularly affected by seawall construction. There have also been significant local losses in saltmarsh, mangrove and seagrass habitats. Beach and dune erosion is an increasing problem in many areas.
As a result of poor integrated planning and population pressures, coastal strip developments have led to a decline in water quality, loss of habitat, beach erosion, conflicts among users and loss of amenity. Micro-organism associated with sewage outfalls, septic seepage, stormwater and excess nutrients find their way into the marine environment from urban developments.
Fish caught from commercial activities are important for local consumption and export. Australia has a number of high value export fisheries such as abalone, rock lobsters, prawns and cultured pearls. Annual exports of marine products are valued at $1.1 billion annually.
Fishing is a major extractive use of the marine environment and can impose heavy pressure on marine species and their habitats. Most major Australian seafood species are now fully exploited. Some including southern bluefin tuna and eastern gemfish have been over-exploited. Of 100 of Australia's fisheries several are considered to be over-fished and more than twenty are fully or heavily fished. Reasons for declines in some fisheries include: over-fishing, use of non-selective fishing gear, loss of habitat, pollution and Australia's marine jurisdictional complexity which can hinder management.
Declining water quality is regarded as one of the most serious issues affecting Australia's marine and coastal environments. Land and sea are closely linked in the coastal zone. Some of the activities that contribute to poor water quality include inappropriate catchment management, land use practices, sewage discharge and urban run-off.
Elevated nutrients and sediments come from land run-off both in rural and urban areas. Sediments alter estuaries and shores and smother marine life. Elevated nutrients cause eutrophication and the harmful growth of algae. Eutrophication is a serious threat to estuaries, temperate seagrass and tropical corals. Increased sedimentation and nutrients have been linked to massive die back of seagrasses in many areas. Seagrass beds are ecologically important because of their high productivity, ability to trap and stabilise sediments, provision of fish habitat and habitats of important species such as dugong and turtles. Scientists have estimated that in Queensland the amounts of sediments, nitrogen and phosphorus entering the sea each year have increased three to five times since European settlement. The rivers of Queensland's east coast catchments are estimated to deliver 14 million tonnes of sediments to marine ecosystems annually. Other pollutants include: industrial chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, pathogens and litter.
Marine organisms can be affected by a range of discharges into the environment, and emissions including oil, sediments, nutrients, sewage, heavy metals, organochlorines and litter. Up to 50% of these emissions enter the sea from the land.
Australian coastal ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to eutrophication as they evolved under very low nutrient regimes and are dominated by nutrient sensitive corals in the north and seagrasses in the south. Eutrophication occurs when excess nutrients enter the marine ecosystem in run-off from farming lands and sewage and storm-water run-off from urban areas. The increased nutrient levels lead to an increase in marine plant (algae) growth. As these plants decay they deplete the oxygen content of the water and marine animals die in large numbers.
Australian coastal ecosystems are also vulnerable to sedimentation as they evolved under low sediment regimes. Clearing of land, over-grazing and cropping, have greatly increased soil erosion and consequently, the amount of sediments entering the sea. Northern seagrasses are less adversely affected by increased nutrient and sediment levels. Crude oil and refined petroleum can enter the sea from shipping and port operations and offshore petroleum exploration. There have been several moderate but relatively destructive spills in Australian waters since 1991. While large oil spills grab headlines, far more oil actually enters the marine environment from industrial, sewage and stormwater discharges and operational discharges from ships. Refined petroleum contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAHs] that are carcinogens and have been implicated in a wide range of human health problems and diseases in aquatic organisms. PAHs also accumulate in animal tissues.
Heavy metals such as copper, lead, cadmium, zinc and mercury have become serious contaminants in estuaries and coastal waters. Heavy metals tend to attach to suspended particles in the sea and ultimately accumulate in sediments. They also bioaccumulate in fish, molluscs, algae and seagrass. Heavy metals enter the marine environment via stormwater run-off, industrial effluents, sediments from mining operations and atmospheric fall out.
A range of organochlorines, including 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T, lindane, chlorinated phenols and PCBs, enter the marine environment from industrial effluents and run-off from agricultural lands and accumulate in sediments. Although these organochlorines are present in low concentrations, they are preferentially soluble in animal fats and accumulate in the tissues of predatory fish, seabirds, marine mammals and humans.
Ocean and beach litter not only reduce the beauty of our beaches but can also endanger marine life. Worldwide many thousands of marine mammals, turtles and sea birds die each year from swallowing plastic bags or being trapped in discarded fishing gear. In Australia the incidence of entanglement of fur seals, turtles and dugong in net fragments and other litter is alarmingly high. Australian beaches are increasingly littered with plastic bottles, plastic bags, fishing lines, nets and other rubbish. The fishing industry is a major contributor of ocean litter. Surveys in Tasmania show 80% of litter items came from recreational and commercial fishers. Not even remote beaches are free from this litter.
Source: Adapted from Our Sea, Our Future: Major Findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra, 1995; and Cocks, K.D. and Crossland, C. (1991) The Australian Coastal Zone: A Discussion Paper, Resource Allocation Program, Division of Wildlife and Ecology, CSIRO, Canberra.
Australian waters span almost 60 degrees of latitude from Torres Strait to Antarctica, and 72 degrees of longitude from Norfolk Island to the Cocos Islands (OHT 4). They include a great range of geographic, geological and oceanographic features. Australia's marine environment extends from the shores and wetlands along the coastline to the ocean depths, and from tropical coral reefs to antarctic packice. Coastal and marine environments are under increasing pressure from human activities in the marine, coastal and terrestrial environments (OHT 5).
The coastal zone comprises components of land (catchments, wetlands, dune systems) and the sea (intertidal and subtidal regions of the continental shelf) (see Figure 1, OHT 6). Biologically, the coastal zone extends to the edge of the continental shelf. Legally, there are prescribed limits of responsibility determined by the Commonwealth and State authorities. Under international law, Australia is entitled to a 12 nautical mile territorial sea. Beyond territorial waters is the Australian Fishing Zone extending 200 nautical miles seaward and encompassing an area of about 3 million square kilometres. Because each State and Territory has title to the seabed of the territorial sea adjacent to it, Australia's coastal zone lacks a unified definition and some sections are subject to many legislative instruments and regulations (OHT 7). For the purpose of the actions of the Commonwealth, the boundaries of the coastal zone are considered to extend as far inland and as far seaward as necessary to achieve its coastal policy objectives, with a primary focus on the land-sea interface. Thus any discussion of coastal matters must focus on the shoreline, coastal waters and islands, estuaries and other tidal waters, coastal wetlands and land adjacent to these features. Australia's coastal zone supports most of the nation's population and much of its economic and social activity. Therefore, sound management of the coastal zone is of profound importance to the maintenance of many of Australia's important ecological systems as well as to the socio-economic development of the nation. The challenge is to manage the use of the coast in such a way that undesirable impacts are eliminated, or, at least, minimised.
Estuaries are meeting places of fresh and salt waters. They are naturally rich in nutrients, ecologically highly productive and important fish habitats. Australian estuaries have been the focus of urban and industrial development and are important for recreation. Australia has 783 major estuaries. Clearing of river catchments in eastern and southern Australia has resulted in land erosion, sedimentation of rivers and increased sediment and nutrient levels in estuaries and adjacent coastal waters. Sedimentation is a major problem in ports and shipping channels. The flows of many of Australia's rivers have been significantly altered by dams, barriers, land reclamation schemes and flood mitigation schemes. These changes affect the hydrodynamics and flushing characteristics of estuaries. Of estuaries that have been studied, 64% in New South Wales and 22% in Victoria are considered to have poor water quality.
Coastlines and shore communities are the meeting place of land and sea. Australian shores include open coasts, rocky headlands, sandy beaches, and muddy and sandy tidal flats. Shores have a high diversity of specialised plants and animals. Shores are also the social gathering places for people. Beaches are the most popular areas for outdoor recreation in Australia. Threats to shore communities include over-harvesting of molluscs, crustaceans and sea urchins for food and bait, trampling, oil slicks and loss of habitat. In more populous areas urban development has placed significant pressures on shore communities. Shores are not usually well protected because management of intertidal areas is confused by overlapping responsibilities and lack of coordination.
Saltmarshes are intertidal plant communities dominated by herbs and low shrubs. They are highly productive, key habitats that support many organisms. They are also a critical habitat for migratory birds such as the Orange-bellied Parrot. A major threat to saltmarshes in developed areas is land reclamation for ports, marinas, canal estates, urban development and industrial sites. Other threats include degradation by rubbish dumping, off-road vehicles, and invasion by weeds.
Mangroves are tree and shrub species that are adapted to periodically inundation and salty conditions between tides. Mangrove forests are very productive ecosystems and are of major ecological and economic importance. They provide habitats that encompass nurseries for many fish species, form buffer zones from sediments and storm waves, are natural nutrient filters and are critical habitats for many birds and other wildlife. Significant losses of mangrove habitats have occurred around coastal cities.
Seagrass beds are ecologically important because of their high productivity, ability to trap sediments, importance as fish, dugong and turtles habitats. Australia has the highest diversity of seagrasses in the world. Australia's unique temperate grasses appear to be under particular threat from increased sedimentation and nutrient levels. The decline in temperate seagrasses is one of the most serious issues in the marine environment.
Reefs are important because of their high biodiversity and importance for recreational and commercial fishing. Around 80%-90% of the flora and fauna of Australia's temperate reefs are endemic. Australia has the largest area of coral reefs of any nation and the largest coral complex (The Great Barrier Reef). General issues affecting reefs include increased nutrient and sediment levels, tourism and recreation, fishing and the real threat of oil spills.
Many factors influence people's values (family, friends, media and personal experience) but it is education at schools, colleges and universities that gives people most of the formal knowledge and skills to make informed decisions and the ability to act on them. During their formal education every Australian student learns something about the sea in a variety of subjects from art to zoology.
The sustainability of coastal and marine systems also depends on Australians knowing about the marine environment, recognising the threats to it, wanting to care for it, and learning the skills to look after it. Therefore, coastal and marine studies are also vital for achieving the environmental awareness, values attitudes, and skills consistent with ecologically sustainable development. To this end, a long-term national coastal and marine education programme has been introduced to help develop:
Source: Adapted from Saenger, P. (1996) An Overview of Coastal Ecosystems and Their Values, Attachment C to B. Graham and D. Pitts, Draft Good Practice Guidelines for Integrated Coastal Management, The Royal Australian Planning Institute and Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra.