We can fix the Great Barrier Reef

Apr 7, 2015

Credit: Ed Roberts

By Science Daily

Leading coral reef scientists say Australia could restore the Great Barrier Reef to its former glory through better policies that focus on science, protection and conservation.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the authors argue that all the stressors on the Reef need to be reduced for it to recover.

An Australian Government report into the state of the Great Barrier Reef found that its condition in 2014 was “poor and expected to further deteriorate in the future.” In the past 40 years, the Reef has lost more than half of its coral cover and there is growing concern about the future impacts of ocean acidification and climate change.

“We need to move beyond the gloom and doom to identify how the decline of the Great Barrier Reef can be turned around,” says co-author Professor Terry Hughes from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University (JCU).

“Our paper shows that every major stressor on the Reef has been escalating for decades — more and more fishing, pollution, coastal development, dredging, and now for the past 20 years we’re also seeing the impacts of climate change.”


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14 comments on “We can fix the Great Barrier Reef

  • Very sad. I’ve been diving off Caribbean reefs for 25 years, and I see the same thing. I know of few spots that have retained their coral cover and pristine appearance.



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  • “Our paper shows that every major stressor on the Reef has been escalating for decades — more and more fishing, pollution, coastal development, dredging, and now for the past 20 years we’re also seeing the impacts of climate change.”

    The Great Barrier Reef was a “Must See Before you Die” place. Sadly, it’s fading fast so be quick.

    It is a template for the conflict between free enterprise capital and protection of a spectacular natural asset. They are incompatible. On shore agriculture means chemical / silt outflows from rivers that kill the reef. The current Australian government, who deny global warming, believe coal is the future of energy supply for the world??? WTF They are building massive coal export ports along the Barrier Reef coast. This involves dredging which is then transported by currents and coats and chokes the reef. Global warming is changing the temperature for the coral causing coral bleaching. Crown of Thorns starfish are in plague proportions and are devouring the reef. The natural control of the starfish is out of balance for all of the above reasons. The reef is THE major driver of fish stocks over this area of the planet. Knock on. Knock on. Knock on.

    The Australian government have a report before them urging them to change their policies to protect the reef, but they won’t, because making a profit is more important than coral.

    Capitalism. Rich today. Extinct tomorrow.



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  • Here, Here,

    Abbot Point is a good example. The company contracted to sand blast the pier structure for painting used second hand sand (previously used sand blast sand therefore contaminated with paint and other contaminants). Makes perfectly good common sense to save a few buck at the cost of poisoning part of the reef. Fined something like a couple of hundred thousand dollars. Not forced to clean it up mind, just a small fine. There’s a sweet but violent you tube promotion for train safety called dumb ways to die (very catchy ear worm stuff) here one of the dumb ways to die is selling both your kidneys on the Internet, shown with the cute character cash is his hands and two scars where his kidneys have been removed dancing. It seems me that climate change, continued pursuit of fossil fuels inspite of what we now know is a very very dumb way to die. Ah Tony, what a heartbreaking PM you are!

    I lived off the reef (at the Whitsunday’s) when I was a young man I would work a few days a week and spend the rest on the reef, on boats, kayaking on the reef, snorkelling, sailing on square riggers all all the pleasant tourist stuff, suba diving was one of the many ways I enjoyed the reef even then under threat from crown of thorns starfish (they are huge). It’s tragic to think that many of the places I once enjoyed a couple of decades ago are now a shadow of the former self I interacted with.

    Unfortunately wrecking natural wonders seems to be a bit of a Queensland tradition, time honoured. Not that it doesn’t happen in other states of course, some other states will do just the same but will at least have the good grace to feel a bit ashamed as they do or at least to acknowledge that the should even if they don’t.



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  • “Don’t it always seem to go

    That you don’t know what you’ve got

    Till it’s gone

    They paved paradise

    And put up a parking lot”

    ~ Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi



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  • Hi Nordic, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you post and believe it or not, I actually worry about you because I know you’ve been sick for some time now. I don’t post as much as I used to, but in the past we have had some positive exchanges, and a few where I was a jerk, and I’m sorry for those. Though I disagree with your epistemology, I think the site is a much more interesting place when you post here. You’ve all ways struck me a thoughtful and sweet person and I hope that your doing great my friend.



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  • @op – Leading coral reef scientists say Australia could restore the Great Barrier Reef to its former glory through better policies that focus on science, protection and conservation.

    If the rising CO2 levels and destruction continue, they may have to try desperate measures to replace the algae in bleached corals!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/oceans/locations/redsea/eritrea.shtml
    It is thought that there might be a heat resistant algae that exists in the Red Sea. If this algae can be extracted, scientists believe there may be a way of saving coral around the world from bleaching.



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  • boops
    Apr 10, 2015 at 7:47 am

    I can’t belive this journal paper was published. What rubbish! It’s nothing more than a glorified media release repeating redundant news to fuel debate.

    “Nature” is a top scientific journal and the extracts seem to cover some of the current problems of port-development, mining and run-off!

    Which of these issues do you see as being inaccurate?

    @link – In a paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the authors argue that all the stressors on the Reef need to be reduced for it to recover.

    An Australian Government report into the state of the Great Barrier Reef found that its condition in 2014 was “poor and expected to further deteriorate in the future.” In the past 40 years, the Reef has lost more than half of its coral cover and there is growing concern about the future impacts of ocean acidification and climate change.

    “Our paper shows that every major stressor on the Reef has been escalating for decades — more and more fishing, pollution, coastal development, dredging, and now for the past 20 years we’re also seeing the impacts of climate change.”

    *”The challenge is to use that scientific knowledge to prevent further damage and give the Reef some breathing space that would allow it to recover.”

    Co-author, Jon Day, also from the ARC Centre for Coral Reef Studies at JCU says an obvious first step is to prevent unsustainable growth in each of the stressors to reduce their cumulative impact.

    “If that means less dredging, less coal mining and more sustainable fishing, then that’s what Australia has to do. Business as usual is not an option because the values for which the Reef was listed as World Heritage are already deteriorating, and will only get worse unless a change in policy occurs.”

    The authors say that as countries around the world move to curb global carbon emission, Australia has an opportunity to transition away from fossil fuels and to limit the development of huge coal ports alongside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

    Coal mining is becoming obsolete and unsustainable, so investment needs to be directed to sustainable developments.

    The scientists have outlined a six-point plan they believe will restore the Great Barrier Reef, including;

    A return to the former emphasis on conservation and protection of the Great Barrier Reef.
    Australia taking a lead role in tackling climate change by transitioning away from fossil fuels.
    Permanent legislative bans on dumping both capital and maintenance dredge spoil within the World Heritage area.
    An overhaul of the environmental impact assessment process for new developments
    The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) reinstated as the agency responsible for all aspects of the Great Barrier Reef, including fishing and ports.
    A 50-year plan and adequate funding for the use of the catchment designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural run off.

    Jon Brodie says Australia is starting to reduce runoff of nutrients, sediments and pesticides from land into the World Heritage Area, and is improving regulations for dumping capital dredge-spoil, but much more action is needed.



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  • Yeah, my bad, sorry. That was a pretty lazy post. (I’m familiar with Nature; non-practicing BSc Geol 😉 )
    I’m certainly in favour of any reasonable environmental plan to protect our awesome coastline…. of course… but I take issue with a professor putting out a poorly referenced short-paper with numerous errors.

    The federal and state governments, along with industry stakeholders, independent scientists, and the public, have spent most of the last two years working on a strategic assessment of the current management processes and failings in order to develop a new 25-yr plan. The assessment addressed all points in that paper and all of the World Heritage Committee recommendations handed down in their last review.

    Those reports were sent off to the WHC a few weeks ago for their review before the next official meeting in late-July. So, action has been taken and the Professor should know it.

    An Australian Government report into the state of the Great Barrier Reef found that its condition in 2014 was “poor and expected to further deteriorate in the future.”
    This quote and context of the paragraph is a) cherry-picked for maximum shock value, and b) wrong (although it does paraphrase the end of the Introduction in “The Outlook Report 2014”). At 2,300km long, the reef area is divided into many sections for condition reports etc and only the southernmost point towards Brisbane is described that way.

    “Our paper shows that every major stressor on the Reef has been escalating for decades — more and more fishing, pollution, coastal development, dredging,
    Were… escalating. Land clearing along the coast was all but prohibited in 2006 to help reduce pollution runoff (from agricultural/urban areas etc); development plans are restricted (a new small port/LNG plant); maintenance dredging will continue where it always has… it’s not as though the reef has been left to fester for decades.

    A return to the former emphasis on conservation and protection of the Great Barrier Reef.
    WTF?

    Australia taking a lead role in tackling climate change by transitioning away from fossil fuels.
    This would be nice but it isn’t going to happen with new mining leases and the LHC plant about to come online. Billions in export $ and 10,000 new jobs for however many years… a compromise is required. I’m all for lining the outback with solar panels though!

    Permanent legislative bans on dumping both capital and maintenance dredge spoil within the World Heritage area.
    Dredge spoil and mine tailings aren’t dumped within the WHA. Spoil is dumped in a designated area; the tailings are kept onshore until the stores are full, then they are moved out to deeper waters after treatment and testing. Regulations have been tightened in the new report.

    An overhaul of the environmental impact assessment process for new developments
    Done

    A 50-year plan and adequate funding for the use of the catchment designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural run off.
    Unrealistically long. A hell of a lot can change. Funding has been allocated.

    and now for the past 20 years we’re also seeing the impacts of climate change.
    Grrrr! Ok. Briefly, Qld had 7 cyclones in the last 5 years, plus flooding over 2 Summers and heavy rain after a 10 year drought – a fairly decent dose of extreme weather events. The current water-quality problems and damage along the coast are the expected result. Both federal and state governments were briefed on the likelihood of increased extreme weather events years ago and policy changes (e.g. building codes) are in the new plan.

    Anyway, rant rant sorry…. the paper just pissed me off is all..
    It’s the first long-range political plan I’ve seen with realistic local-area goals and adaptation ideas for any future climate-change issues. Far better than random taxes! Things take time



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  • boops
    Apr 10, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Yeah, my bad, sorry. That was a pretty lazy post. (I’m familiar with Nature; non-practicing BSc Geol 😉 )
    I’m certainly in favour of any reasonable environmental plan to protect our awesome coastline…. of course…

    The core problem is with the science deniers in the government and the mining interests.

    Australia taking a lead role in tackling climate change by transitioning away from fossil fuels.
    This would be nice but it isn’t going to happen with new mining leases and the LHC plant about to come online. Billions in export $ and 10,000 new jobs for however many years… a compromise is required. I’m all for lining the outback with solar panels though!

    It is probably going to be a disaster, – not only in terms of CO2 emissions, climate change, droughts floods, and ocean acidification, but in wasted investment money, as the Chinese move to renewables, ethical investors pull out of coal,
    http://www.businessinsider.com/r-philanthropies-including-rockefellers-and-investors-pledge-50-billion-fossil-fuel-divestment-2014-9

    and opportunities are lost to more effectively direct in vestments into Liquid salt Solar thermal generation plants, photovoltaic systems, tidal energy, and heat storage systems.

    Obviously other energy related matters such as energy efficient buildings, LED lighting, local electric railway/tramway systems, and vehicles powered by biofuels, hydrogen and super-capacitor batteries, are needed.

    Australia is well situated to exploit solar and tidal power.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-32119463

    Many of these issues have been debated elsewhere on this site.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/07/india-is-building-a-massive-floating-solar-power-plant/

    http://old.www.richarddawkins.net/discussions/643310-water-cooled-nuclear-power-plants-aren-t-the-only-option



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  • It’s the first long-range political plan I’ve seen with realistic local-area goals and adaptation ideas for any future climate-change issues. Far better than random taxes! Things take time

    @Boops. Did you listen to ABC Radio National, Ockham’s Razor Science program this week. A talk by Professor Haydn Washington entitled, Demystifying Sustainability. I would be interested on your thoughts on this matter. It goes to the survival of the Great Barrier Reef, but more generally, the subject of sustainability.

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/demystifying-sustainability/6377398

    For other readers, I commend this talk. Rated highly on the Richter Scale of commonsense. Click on Listen Now button.



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  • I see the CofE has decided to follow the lead of the ethical investors and now distance themselves from funding polluting carbon industries!

    https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2015/05/daily-digest-reports-on-court-of-appeal-ruling-and-divestment-decision.aspx

    FT/Reuters/BBC/Times/Mail/Guard
    Reports that the Church of England has decided to disinvest from heavily polluting coal and tar sands investments, in what is described in some articles as a victory for campaigners seeking to make fossil fuels as unpopular as tobacco while others commend the Church’s moral responsibility to protect the world’s poor from the impact of global warming
    The Church’s National Investing Bodies announced on Thursday that it would sell £12m of its holdings in thermal coal and tar sands companies, two of the most polluting fossil fuels. FT notes the move comes nearly three years after the appointment of Justin Welby, a former senior executive at the now defunct Enterprise Oil company.




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  • The CofE position on CO2 is not as green as it might be!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-32544480
    The Church of England is adopting a new climate change policy and will cut its investments in fossil fuel companies.

    It will sell investments worth £12m in firms where more than 10% of revenue comes from extracting thermal coal or the production of oil from tar sands.

    The Church said it had a “moral responsibility” to act on environmental issues to protect the poor, who were the most vulnerable to climate change.

    The Church manages three investment funds worth about £8bn.

    Analysis: Helen Briggs, environment correspondent

    The church joins several UK institutions that have already signed up to the movement, including Glasgow University and the British Medical Association. But for some, the announcement does not go far enough.

    The Church of England says it will withdraw investments worth £12m from companies that make money from extracting thermal coal – used in generating electricity – or producing oil from tar sands.

    This is but a fraction of its total investment portfolio and some are already calling for the church to go further by divesting from all fossil fuels. But the church takes the view that engaging with fossil fuel companies is productive for other forms of energy, such as oil and gas, which may be needed as the world moves towards a low-carbon economy.



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