Res­cu­ing reef won’t be easy

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - BRIAN WIL­LIAMS

TRY­ING to save the Great Bar­rier Reef will be like turn­ing around the Ti­tanic, says Terry Hughes, a co­ral ex­pert who sits on Fed­eral and State Govern­ment sci­en­tific pan­els over­see­ing re­pair work.

He warned that emerg­ing El Nino con­di­tions this sum­mer could cause fur­ther ocean warm­ing which might lead to a big co­ral bleach­ing event like those that oc­curred in 1998 and 2002. This also could set re­pair work back.

Pro­fes­sor Hughes, ARC Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence for Co­ral Stud­ies di­rec­tor, said it was un­re­al­is­tic to think that 200 years of dam­age would be re­paired quickly, but state, fed­eral and UNESCO ac­tions had put Aus­tralia on the right path.

No mat­ter what Aus­tralia did about wa­ter qual­ity and other prob­lems, cli­mate change re­mained the Reef’s great­est threat.

“The ele­phant in the room is cli­mate change,’’ Prof Hughes said.

Univer­sity of Queens­land Global Change In­sti­tute di­rec­tor Ove Hoegh- Guld­berg said more work was needed to achieve tar­gets set for re­duc­ing sed­i­ment and nu­tri­ent run- off.

If these could be solved, then the great­est short- term threat to the Reef would be averted.

This left cli­mate change still to be dealt with.

“Let’s hope we get ac­tion out of the Ab­bott Govern­ment be­fore it is too late for one of Aus­tralia’s great en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sets,” he said.

Prof Hughes said Aus­tralia had no choice but to meet the tar­gets set by the 2050 plan, oth­er­wise the World Her­itage area would end up on the UNESCO in dan­ger list.

“The tar­gets are very am­bi­tious and it’s hard to see how they can be achieved with­out sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tional fund­ing,” he said.

“The 80 per cent re­duc­tion tar­get for ni­tro­gen by 2025, that’s huge. It will be many years be­fore we have de­tectable changes.”

Ma­rine con­ser­va­tion plan­ning ex­pert Bob Pressey said of the 2050 plan: “We’ve got a plan that doesn’t have enough specifics and still al­lows coastal zone de­vel­op­ment to the detri­ment of the Reef. It will take a lot more ef­fort than the Govern­ment has put in so far to ar­rest this.

He said the Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park Au­thor­ity had done a good job in pro­tect­ing the Reef but was crip­pled by cuts in fed­eral fund­ing which had forced out ex­pe­ri­enced staff.

MAM­MOTH TASK: Ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist Terry Hughes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.