Scientists say $10 billion is needed to save Great Barrier Reef over the next 10 years

November 30, -0001
  • Scientists say Australian government needs to commit $10bn to save reef
  • Findings were published in the Esturine, Coastal and Shelf Science journal
  • Lead author Jon Brodie said the current spending is ‘totally inadequate’ 
  • More than half of corals in part of the Great Barrier Reef are dead or dying
  • The World Heritage site is suffering its worst coral bleaching event ever
  • Dr Russell Reichelt said the bleaching is strongly linked to climate change 

By

Ashleigh Davis

and
Harry Pearl For Daily Mail Australia

and
Australian Associated Press


Published:
16:02 GMT, 19 May 2016

|
Updated:
16:02 GMT, 19 May 2016

The Australian government needs to commit $1 billion a year for 10 years to reduce water pollution and save the Great Barrier Reef from climate change, say scientists.

The findings, published in the Esturine, Coastal and Shelf Science journal, outline the decline in the reef’s health, citing pollutant runoff from from agricultural and urban areas, the effects of fishing and climate change.

The report’s lead author Jon Brodie from James Cook University labelled the current spending as ‘totally inadequate’, in a report by The Guardian. 

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About 50 to 60 per cent of the 900 reefs in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef are dead or dying 

About 50 to 60 per cent of the 900 reefs in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef are dead or dying 

‘This is the last chance. The current spending is totally inadequate … You either do it properly or you give up on the reef. It’s that bad,’ he said.

Mr Brodie and colleague Richard Pearson analysed the current management plans, evaluated their impacts and developed an estimate of what was needed to give the reef a chance against climate change.

The required measures would cost $10bn over 10 years. Mr Brodie said that would get water quality to a point where the reef was in the best shape possible to fight the impact of climate change.

Many of the once colourful corals of the Great Barrier Reef have been damaged due to coral bleaching

Many of the once colourful corals of the Great Barrier Reef have been damaged due to coral bleaching

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Once healthy and colourful corals have turned snow white as a result of coral bleaching

Under heat stress healthy corals (left) expel colourful algae living inside them and bleach white (right)

More than half the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef is dead or dying due to the most severe severe coral bleaching event in its history, the chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said.

Dr Russell Reichelt said surveys showed about 50 to 60 per cent of the 900 reefs in the northern section of the Unesco World Heritage site have or would die.

‘It’s very strongly linked to global warming,’ Dr Reichelt told a Senate estimates committee on Thursday. 

The reef north of Lizard Island, off the far north coast of Queensland, was the worst hit, he said.

Aerial surveys conducted by Australia’s Coral Bleaching Taskforce have shown that only seven per cent of the reefs that make up the natural icon have escaped bleaching, which is caused by heightened sea temperatures.

Underwater photos have confirmed the the severity of the event – showing once colourful reefs teeming with fish, snow white.

The extent and scale of bleaching varies across the Reef. The most extreme bleaching is in the north, while the section between Cairns and Mackay is more moderately bleached, surveys show.

Reefs south of Mackay have escaped severe bleaching because water temperatures there were close to normal over summer.

Why does coral bleaching occur? 

Corals have a symbiotic relationship with a tiny marine algae called ‘zooxanthellae’ that live inside and nourish them.

When sea surface temperatures rise, corals expel the colourful algae. The loss of the algae causes them to bleach and turn white.

While mildly bleached corals can recover if the temperature drops and the algae return, severely bleached corals die. 

Dr Reichelt climate change was the biggest risk to the reef.

A study published by a team of Australian scientists last week found that the current bleaching event would have been almost impossible without human-caused climate change.

Record-warm sea surface temperatures in the Coral Sea in March, which have driven the bleaching, were made 175 times more likely as a result of climate change, according to the study’s preliminary findings.

The scientists used state-of-the-art modelling simulations, with and without the influence of greenhouse gases, to assess the impact of global warming on sea temperatures.

Researchers also estimated that record sea surface temperatures like those in March would be normal by 2034 – meaning corals will have less time to recover from more frequent bleaching events.

The Marine Park Authority says the reef north of Lizard Island, in far north Queensland, is the worst hit

The Marine Park Authority says the reef north of Lizard Island, in far north Queensland, is the worst hit

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‘As the seas warm because of our effect on the climate, bleaching events in the Great Barrier Reef and other areas within the Coral Sea are likely to become more frequent and more devastating,’ wrote Dr Andrew King, one of the study’s authors and a Climate Extremes Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

Although the near-real time study is yet to be peer reviewed, the authors say the methods they used have been reviewed and they have confidence in their results.

 Dr Russell Reichelt, of the Marine Park Authority, said the bleaching was strongly linked to climate change

 Dr Russell Reichelt, of the Marine Park Authority, said the bleaching was strongly linked to climate change

The Federal government has said bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef is a significant event. This week Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced a $171 million ‘boost’ to protect the Reef in the budget.

However, it was revealed yesterday that the government’s reef funding was mostly recycled.

Environment Department and Education Minister Simon Birmingham confirmed under questioning in the senate that the $171 million boost was not new, but came from other programs, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The extent and severity of bleaching varies across the Reef, with the northern section the hardest hit

The extent and severity of bleaching varies across the Reef, with the northern section the hardest hit

Coral bleaching has seen healthy corals (left) on the Reef slowly turn a white, fluorescent colour (right)

 

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