Community use and enjoyment

Rainforest hikers
Photographer: WTMAAbout 300 000 people live in or within 50km of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and it receives about 2.5 million visits per year from locals and tourists. Not only does the Area form the core of the region's natural values, but it is at the heart of the community's day to day life in many ways. The Wet Tropics forests have become central to our sense of place and identity and provide a scenic backdrop to our urban and rural lifestyles. People have developed a spiritual and emotional attachment to the Area and its many splendid vistas and unique animals and plants.

Article 5(a) of the World Heritage Convention requires countries to give their cultural and natural heritage a function in the life of the community. The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area now helps to unite the community rather than being the dividing force it was 25 years ago (see the history of listing). Indeed, it is sobering to contemplate what life would be like in the Wet Tropics without the World Heritage listing.

The Area supports a variety of natural processes through which ecosystems sustain and fulfil human life. In economic terms, the natural capital of the Area’s resources provides ‘ecosystem goods and services’ which have a wide range of social and economic benefits to the Wet Tropics community. These benefits from the Area may range from direct products to vicarious pleasures, from the personal to the international. Benefits may be environmental, economic, cultural, spiritual, educational, recreational or medicinal.

For instance, the high mountain forests are a plentiful source of clean water for Wet Tropics communities. The rainforests provide a genetic resources, food, pollination, soil fertility, nutrient recycling and flood mitigation. Ecotourism has become a major plank in the region's economy and the Area is central to research and education. By far the most important of these goods and services are those that provide support for life. A full list is provided in the table below.


Environmental values and processes

Environmental regulation

Community provision

Community enrichment

• biodiversity

• habitats and refugia
soil formation & fertility

• carbon sequestration

• conversion of solar energy

• biomass production

• pollination

• nutrient recycling

• nitrogen fixing

• water cycles

• genetic resources

• fire regimes

• regulation of regional &
micro climates

• flood mitigation

• water purification

• erosion control

• pest control

• groundwater recharge

• waste treatment

• energy conversion

• food

• clean water supply

• energy (hydro, solar &

• shade and shelter

• soils

• pharmaceutical and
biological products

• horticultural products

• art and craft material

• tourism

• recreation and leisure

• spiritual values and

• natural values

• scenic & aesthetic values

• cultural and historical

• education

• scientific discovery

• sense of place and

• maintaining options for the future

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