In a new paper just published by the Australasian Journal of Environmental Management (AJEM), Grant Wardell-Johnson, David Shoeman, Thomas Schlacher, Angela Wardell-Johnson, Mike Weston, Yoko Shimuzu and Gabriel Conroy examine the future of Fraser Island as an icon.
K’gari-Fraser Island is the world’s largest barrier sand island with unique landscapes and conservation values. The world heritage values that have heralded international recognition are under increasing pressure from destructive environmental use in concert with climate change.
Investment by management agencies and society can enable K’gari-Fraser Island to exemplify innovative, adaptive management to retain the values that have inspired its status.
This paper synthesizes the likely impacts of human pressures and predicted consequences on the values of this island. Hundreds of thousands of annual visitors are inspired by, but also impact on the island’s biodiversity, ecological functions, environmental values and cultural connections.
Surprisingly little monitoring is carried out, even of visitors. Maintaining world heritage values will necessitate the re-framing of values to integrate socio-economic factors in management, and reduce extractive forms of tourism. Environmentally sound, systematic conservation planning, that achieves social equity is urgently needed to rectify historical mistakes, and update current management practices.
Characterising and sustaining biological refugia will be important to retain biodiversity in areas less-visited. The development of a coherent approach to interpretation that accurately reflects history, access and values is required to generate a sympathetic use of this world heritage environment. Without monitoring and adaptive management to foster up-to-date management programs K’gari-Fraser Island will quickly become just another degraded recreational facility. This will act as a significant drain on Australia’s significant cache of environmental integrity.
This paper is part of a special issue with AJEM titled: Future of an icon: K’gari-Fraser Island, climate change and social expectations. There are eight papers in the issue, which will appear with a comprehensive editorial in June covering everything from dingo management to spatial data for the island, cultural philosophy and social values (as they impact decision-making) and the impact of tourism representation on opportunities for the Traditional Owners – the Butchulla people.
Grant Wardell-Johnson, Curtin University