Lost Floodplain Wetland Environments and Efforts to Restore Connectivity, Habitat, and Water Quality Settings on the Great Barrier Reef

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Waltham, Nathan J
Burrows, Damien
Wegscheidl, Carla
Buelow, Christina
Ronan, Mike
Connolly, Niall
Groves, Paul
Marie-Audas, Donna
Creighton, Colin
Sheaves, Marcus
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Managers are moving toward implementing large-scale coastal ecosystem restoration projects, however, many fail to achieve desired outcomes. Among the key reasons for this is the lack of integration with a whole-of-catchment approach, the scale of the project (temporal, spatial), the requirement for on-going costs for maintenance, the lack of clear objectives, a focus on threats rather than services/values, funding cycles, engagement or change in stakeholders, and prioritization of project sites. Here we critically assess the outcomes of activities in three coastal wetland complexes positioned along the catchments of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon, Australia, that have been subjected to restoration investment over a number of decades. Each floodplain has been modified by intensive agricultural production, heavy industry and mining infrastructure, urban/peri urban expansion, aquaculture development and infrastructure expansion. Most development has occurred in low-lying coastal floodplains, resulting in major hydrological modifications to the landscape. This has left the floodplain wetlands in a degraded and hydrologically modified state, with poor water quality (hypoxic, eutrophication, sedimentation, and persistent turbidity), loss of habitat, and disconnected because of flow hydraulic barriers, excessive aquatic plant growth, or establishment of invasive species. Successful GBR wetland ecosystem restoration and management first requires an understanding of what constitutes "success" and must be underpinned by an understanding of complex cause and effect pathways, with a focus on management of services and values. This approach should recognize that these wetlands are still assets in a modified landscape. Suitable, long term, scientific knowledge is necessary to provide government and private companies with the confidence and comfort that their investment delivers dividend (environmental) returns.

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Frontiers in Marine Science

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© 2019 Waltham, Burrows, Wegscheidl, Buelow, Ronan, Connolly, Groves, Marie-Audas, Creighton and Sheaves. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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Environmental sciences


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Waltham, NJ; Burrows, D; Wegscheidl, C; Buelow, C; Ronan, M; Connolly, N; Groves, P; Marie-Audas, D; Creighton, C; Sheaves, M, Lost Floodplain Wetland Environments and Efforts to Restore Connectivity, Habitat, and Water Quality Settings on the Great Barrier Reef, Frontiers in Marine Science, 2019, 6, pp. 71:1-71:14