New en­cy­clo­pe­dia re­veals reef se­crets

Townsville Bulletin - - News - Alexis Gill­ham Thurs­day, March 10, 2011

IT weighs as much as a baby but a lo­cally com­piled en­cy­clo­pe­dia con­tains a body of work based on years of ex­pe­ri­ence.

James Cook Univer­sity pro­fes­sor David Ho­p­ley has pro­duced an earth science en­cy­clo­pe­dia on co­ral reefs in what is likely the most com­pre­hen­sive record of work car­ried out in the area since Charles Dar­win first at­tempted to un­der­stand reef evo­lu­tion.

The 4kg com­pi­la­tion took three years of full-time work with 154 con­trib­u­tors.

The p ubl i c a t i o n, t i t l e d E n c y c l o p e d i a o f Mo d e r n Co­ral Reefs: Struc­ture, Form and Process cov­ers a wide range of top­ics, in­clud­ing bi­o­log­i­cal, chem­i­cal and phys­i­cal pro­cesses, ex­plo­ration and the his­tory of

Pro­fes­sor Ho­p­ley said co­ral r e e f s w e r e t h e l a r g e s t land­forms built by plants and an­i­mals and their study in­cor­po­rated a wide range of dis­ci­plines. ‘‘ This en­cy­clo­pe­dia ap­proaches co­ral reefs from an earth science per­spec­tive, con­cen­trat­ing es­pe­cially on mod­ern reefs,’’ he said. ‘‘ Cur­rently co­ral reefs are un­der high stress, most promi­nently from cli­mate change with changes t o wa­ter tem­per­a­ture, sea level and ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion par­tic­u­larly dam­ag­ing.

‘ ‘ M o d e r n r e e f s h a v e evolved through the mas­sive en­vi­ron­men­tal changes of the re­cent glacial epochs with long pe­ri­ods of exp o s u r e d u r i n g g l a c i a l l y low­ered sea level times and short pe­ri­ods of in­ter­glacial growth.’’

The en­cy­clo­pe­dia is ex­pected to be used ex­ten­sively by reef re­searchers, grad­u­ate stu­dents and reef man­agers.

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