Global aid vi­tal to end Reef strife

Sunday Territorian - - NEWS - ROBYN IRONSIDE

THE big­gest jewel in Aus­tralia’s tourism crown will never look the same again – and to fix it, Aus­tralia needs a world­wide hand.

Made up of 3000 in­di­vid­ual reef sys­tems, the Great Bar­rier Reef is world’s largest liv­ing or­gan­ism. It is home to 300 species of co­ral and a vast ar­ray of fish, mol­luscs, starfish and other ma­rine life.

The Reef also sup­ports a $6 bil­lion tourism in­dus­try that pro­vides employment for 69,000 peo­ple – all of which is in strife if en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion causes sig­nif­i­cant, wide­spread harm.

Al­ready back-to-back co­ral bleach­ing episodes have taken their toll, wip­ing out nearly 600km of co­ral mostly in the far north.

Caused by ris­ing ocean tem­per­a­tures that kill food-gen­er­at­ing al­gal or­gan­isms in­side the co­ral, no one can say with any con­fi­dence bleach­ing will not be­come an an­nual event.

Even more wor­ry­ing, sci­en­tific data sug­gests a fur­ther two-de­gree in­crease in ocean tem­per­a­tures would wipe out most of the hard corals.

The man in charge of the reef re­cov­ery pro­gram at the Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park Author­ity, Dr Mark Read, con­cedes it will never look the same again.

Al­though some corals will build up a re­silience to warmer tem­per­a­tures, a num­ber of species are fac­ing ex­tinc­tion.

“I think it’s go­ing to end up be­ing a real mo­saic,” said Dr Read.

“Some parts of the Reef are go­ing to look more clas­sic – hard co­ral-dom­i­nated – that we’re fa­mil­iar with while other parts will be less dom­i­nated by hard co­ral and more dom­i­nated by soft co­ral and al­gae.”

While nat­u­ral habi­tats are des­tined to change over time, Dr Read said that in the Reef’s case, mankind had con­trib­uted to the “cur­rent ac­cel­er­ated pe­riod of heat­ing”, caus­ing co­ral bleach­ing.

“We are talk­ing about a global phe­nom­e­non,” Dr Read said.

The Great Bar­rier Reef, one of the nat­u­ral won­ders of the world, needs a world­wide hand to save its corals, ac­cord­ing to the Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park Author­ity’s Dr Mark Read, an ex­pert in the field

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