Cli­mate is killing off fish — study

Townsville Bulletin - - News -

FISH species on the Great Bar­rier Reef are starv­ing to death be­cause cli­mate change is killing off their food source, an en­vi­ron­men­tal study has found.

Ris­ing sea tem­per­a­tures have bleached more than 30 per cent of the world’s coral reefs, a five-year study by the ARC Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence for Coral Reef Stud­ies (CoECRS) has found.

As a re­sult, smaller fish which would nor­mally feed on live coral are dy­ing off, which could throw the fish food chain out of bal­ance, and con­se­quently hin­der lo­cal fish­ing and tourism op­er­a­tions.

The coral dam­age is pre­dicted to dou­ble by 2030 if sea tem­per­a­tures con­tinue their warm­ing pat­terns, CoECRS se­nior re­searcher Morgan Pratch­ett said.

The starv­ing fish fail to breed and fail to mi­grate to thriv­ing reefs.

‘‘Fish can be very ter­ri­to­rial and it may be hard for refugee fish, which have lost their reef, to re­lo­cate else­where be­cause the lo­cals will try to keep them out,’’ Dr Pratch­ett said.

CoECRS was set up in 2005 in Townsville to study coral reefs over a five-year pe­riod.

Dr Pratch­ett and his col­leagues spent five years chart­ing the col­lapse of coralfeed­ing but­ter­fly fish on the reef fol­low­ing se­vere bleach­ing be­tween 2000 and 2002.

Bleach­ing causes the corals to shed their nat­u­ral bac­te­ria and die.

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