Great Barrier Reef faces rapid coral loss

2012-10-01 22:19
An image from the custom-built underwater camera being used by Australian scientists to map the iconic Great Barrier Reef. (Catlin Seaview Survey, AFP)

An image from the custom-built underwater camera being used by Australian scientists to map the iconic Great Barrier Reef. (Catlin Seaview Survey, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Singapore - The world's largest coral reef - under threat from Australia's surging coal and gas shipments, climate change and a destructive starfish - is declining faster than ever and coral cover could fall to just 5% in the next decade, a study shows.

Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in the northeastern city of Townsville say Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral in little more than a generation. And the pace of damage has picked up since 2006.

Globally, reefs are being assailed by myriad threats, particularly rising sea temperatures, increased ocean acidity and more powerful storms, but the threat to the Great Barrier Reef is even more pronounced, the AIMS study published on Tuesday found.

"In terms of geographic scale and the extent of the decline, it is unprecedented anywhere in the world," AIMS chief John Gunn told Reuters.

AIMS scientists studied data from more than 200 individual reefs off the Queensland coast covering the period 1985-2012. They found cyclone damage caused nearly half the losses, crown-of-thorns starfish more than 40% and coral bleaching from spikes in sea temperatures 10%.

The starfish are native and prey on the reefs. But plagues are occurring much more frequently.

Ordinarily, reefs can recover within 10 to 20 years from storms, bleachings or starfish attacks but climate change impacts slow this down. Rising ocean acidification caused by seas absorbing more carbon dioxide is disrupting the ability of corals to build their calcium carbonate structures. Hotter seas stress corals still further.

Greens say the 2 000km long reef ecosystem, the centre-piece of a multi-billion tourism industry, also faces a growing threat from shipping driven by the planned expansion of coal and liquefied natural gas projects.

Those concerns have put pressure on the authorities to figure out how to protect the fragile reef.

Falling fast

The researchers say the pace of coral loss has increased since 2006 and if the trend continues, coral cover could halve again by 2022, with the southern and central areas most affected.

Between 1985 and 2012, coral cover of the reef area fell from 28% to 13.8%.

"Coral cover on the reef is consistently declining, and without intervention, it will likely fall to 5 to 10% within the next 10 years," say the researchers in the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. They called for tougher curbs on greenhouse gas emissions as a crucial way to stem the loss.

Shipping and new ports on the Queensland coast are another major threat, Greenpeace says.

Coal is one of Australia's top export earners and the state of Queensland is the country's largest coal-producer. It also has a rapidly growing coal-seam gas industry for LNG exports.

Earlier this year, Greenpeace estimated port expansion could more than triple Queensland's coal export capacity by 2020 from 257 million tonnes now. That would mean as many as 10 000 coal ships per year could make their way through the Great Barrier Reef area by 2020, up 480% from 1 722 ships in 2011, according to the group.

The Queensland and national governments, which jointly manage the reef, have launched a major review of managing the risks facing the Unesco-listed reef and its surrounding marine area. The review will look at managing the threats from increased shipping to urban development.

Gunn said better management was all about buying time and improving the reef's resilience to climate change. A key area was improving water quality from rivers flowing into the reef area, with studies suggesting fertiliser-rich waters help the crown-of-thorns starfish larvae rapidly multiply.

Read more on:    australia  |  marine life
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
7 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Cape Town - 07:23 AM
    Road name: N1 Inbound
    DELAYS between Century City and the M5 Koeberg Interchange
  • Wednesday Edgemead - 07:19 AM
    Road name: N7 Northbound
    DELAYS approaching the Bosmansdam Road exit
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 9380

The first BlackBerry Curve smartphone with a touch screen Stay connected...

From R1799.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is always easier to look out and see what needs changing. Looking in is a lot harder... Today you may need to look at what...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.