A Changing Environment

This section deals with a range of direct threats and underlying pressures. Threats such as fragmentation, climate change, weeds, feral animals and diseases are listed in the navigation on the side bar. Other threats are in the drop down menu under Threats to the Area.


Direct threats

There is a wide range of threats to the biodiversity and scenery of the Wet Tropics. These can be threats to the survival of ecosysytems, threats to individual species or threats to the beauty of the Area. These threats are all discussed in more detail on other pages in the website. The main direct threats are listed below.

  • Fragmentation
  • Climate change
  • Weeds
  • Feral animals
  • Altered fire regimes
  • Altered water flows and water quality
  • Cyclones


Indirect threats

There is also a range of underlying pressures on the World Heritage Area. These include:

  • Regional population growth
  • Urban development and pollution
  • Demand for community infrastructure (water, roads, electricity)
  • Farming (agriculture, grazing and aquaculture)
  • Tourism and recreation

You can also read more about direct and indirect threats in the Wet Tropics Conservation Strategy.

Underlying pressures

here is a range of underlying development pressures on the World Heritage Area. These include:

  • Regional population growth
  • Urban development and pollution
  • Demand for community services infrastructure (roads, powerlines, dams, pipelines)
  • Farming (agriculture, grazing and aquaculture)
  • Tourism and recreation

The demands of an increasing population of residents and visitors, as well as associated industry developments, underlie many of the direct environmental pressures placed on the integrity of the World Heritage Area. The Wet Tropics region is the most populous of northern Australia and the population continues to grow. Over half the regional population live in Cairns. The Wet Tropics is also an outstanding visitor destination and tourism plays a key role in presenting the Area’s values to millions of visitors each year. It is estimated that the annual number of visitors to the region is presently around two million. The number of visits to tourism sites in and around the World Heritage Area (by tourists and local residents) is estimated to be about five million annually. For information and statistics about the population and growth in the region, visit the Office of Economic and Statistical Research website.

A growing Wet Tropics population is causing increased demands for powerlines, dams, roads and telecommunication facilities. The fertile coastal lowland areas, including wetlands and floodplains, are threatened by the demand for urban and rural residential expansion, tourism facilities and pressures on marginal agricultural lands. Growth in population and trade may also be associated with increased use of freshwater, vegetation clearing for agriculture, the introduction of pastoral and horticultural plant species, and increases in the number of weeds, feral animals and diseases.

There is more demand for roads and walking tracks for recreation and tourism. Tourism and recreation can help the local economy and increase appreciation of natural values. However, if they are not well managed, they can harm the environment and people's quality of life. For instance, visitor facilities may spoil the scenic qualities of the Area and visitors may introduce weeds and diseases into remote areas.

The FNQ Regional Plan 2009-2031 was endorsed by the State Government and local governments in 2009 to guide growth and development over the next twenty years. The FNQ Regional Plan aims to balance economic growth and development with other community needs and environmental sustainability.

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