Great Barrier Reef: Same old same old scares
Every couple of years we get the whines we read below: The reef is being destroyed by global warming and farming. But the reef is still there. The prophecies of doom don't eventuate.
One should in fact gravely doubt the findings below. Peter Ridd has shown that the JCU people routinely exaggerate reef damage. There are always bare spots on the reef and these are attributed to global warming.
But that is not so. It is the Crown of Thorns starfish that is responsible for most reef damage. But from an aircraft you can't see starfish so the damage is all put down to global warming. What you read below is therefore a travesty of science. No effort was made to exclude competing explanations -- which is utterly basic in science. They are propagandists, not scientists.
In another sad blow for the Australian environment, it has now been confirmed that once again climate change has taken its toll on one of its greatest natural wonders - the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, home to some 600 species of coral.
But a recent aerial study has confirmed scientists' worst fears, concluding that the reef is experiencing its third large-scale bleaching event in five years.
Coral bleaching is the direct result of warming sea temperatures, which causes corals to become stressed. In this situation, coral expels the symbiotic algae which lives within its tissues, which is responsible for its bright colour.
Usually bright and colourful jewels among the reef, bleaching leaves a stripped-bare skeleton of the coral behind.
Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, led a team of researchers to assess the extent of coral bleaching across the reef.
Professor Hughes said: “We surveyed 1,036 reefs from the air during the last two weeks in March, to measure the extent and severity of coral bleaching throughout the Barrier Reef region.
“For the first time, severe bleaching has struck all three regions of the Great Barrier Reef – the northern, central and now large parts of the southern sectors."
Aerial surveys concluded that while some areas of the reef have remained unscathed, large swathes in other regions have been severely bleached, casting ominous doubt over the reef's future.
The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has described the phenomenon as a “matter of huge concern”.
So in order to preserve and protect the Great Barrier Reef for years to come, what is the solution?
How can the Great Barrier Reef recover?
Dr Mark Eakin, Coordinator of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch program, said while people “continue to spew carbon dioxide” the current phenomenon will become a much more common occurrence.
He said: “This is the third widespread, severe coral bleaching in less than five years.
“As long as we continue to spew carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, corals will continue to bleach and die.
“Local efforts to reduce pollution on the reef and to restore reefs piecemeal help keep corals alive.
“If we want to save the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs around the world, we have to move off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.”
According to Dr Richard K.F. Unsworth, Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology at Swansea University, farming practices needs a significant overhaul in order for the reef to survive.
He said: “Although climate change is the primary cause of bleaching, the capacity of the reef to recover after bleaching events is improved when the water quality is high.
“This means low levels of nutrients, sediments and contaminants such as herbicides.
“The water quality in many areas of the inshore Great Barrier reef remains poor principally because of poor farming practices, reducing the capacity of the reef to recover after bleaching.”
Dr Unsworth added: “For the reef to have any chance of survival in the long-term, the water quality of the Great Barrier Reef region needs to improve through better farming practices, and global carbon dioxide emissions need to reduce rapidly.
Phil North at Dive Worldwide said some divers fear it “is not what it once was”, but all is not lost for the reef yet.
He added: “This having been said, the reef is vast. It is the largest living structure on earth that can be viewed from space.
“Not all of it is destroyed and there are some parts that are still quite beautiful.”
While the current bleaching event is undoubtedly a setback for the reef, Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said the reef is a “resilient ecosystem” which can still recover.
She added: “We know that on mildly or moderately bleached reefs, there is a good chance most bleached corals will recover and survive.
“It’s heartening to hear that some of the key tourism reefs in the north and central areas are amongst those likely to bounce back from lesser levels of bleaching.”