Thursday, 5 May 2016

The Great Barrier Reef: black letter days

It’s time to ask incumbent federal MPs and senators what they intend to do to when faced with legislative bills or ministerial decisions which have the potential to negatively impact on The Great Barrier Reef and to make it very clear that their answers will decide votes in July 2016.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 April 2016:

Scientists surveying the mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef say only 7 per cent of Australia's environmental icon has been left untouched by the event.

The final results of plane and helicopter surveys by scientists involved in the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce has found that of the 911 reefs they observed, just 68 had escaped any sign of bleaching.

The severity of the bleaching is mixed across the barrier reef, with the northern stretches hit the hardest.

Overall, severe bleaching of between 60 and 100 per cent of coral was recorded on 316 reefs, almost all of them in the northern half of the barrier reef. Reefs in central and southern regions of the 2300 kilometre Great Barrier Reef have experienced more moderate to mild affects.

The mass bleaching event has been driven by significantly higher than average sea temperatures as a result of the current El Nino event, coupled with a long-term warming of the oceans due to climate change.

While the barrier reef has experienced mass coral bleaching events in the past – notably in 1998 and 2002 – Professor Terry Hughes, convenor of the bleaching taskforce, said the current event was by far the biggest.

Sky News, 24 March 2016:

A leading academic says it may be too late to reverse effects of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.

*It could be too late to reverse the effects of coral bleaching in large swathes of the Great Barrier Reef caused by man-made climate change, a leading academic fears.

Professor Justin Marshall, from The University of Queensland's CoralWatch team, has just spent 10 days at the Lizard Island Research Station, north of Cairns, gathering data and images of coral bleaching in the northern part of the reef.

Prof Marshall said almost all of the coral in a 500km stretch of the reef was bleached and about half of that coral was dead because of the bleaching.

He said sometimes coral could recover from bleaching, where it becomes white after losing the symbiotic algae that brings it nutrients, but when there was large-scale coral death like in this situation, it was far less likely.

'The absolute figures are unknown and our research is ongoing to determine that,' Prof Marshall said.

'Over the next few months we'll be able to give you an answer, but to be honest I'm a bit pessimistic.'

Prof Marshall said the coral bleaching in the area was the worst he'd ever seen it.
'I have kids, I love to take them up to the reef, but to be honest, I would have been ashamed to take my children up there this time,' he said.

He said global warming was causing coral bleaching, which wasn't helped by El Nino conditions this year.

'There is an additional natural fluctuation, but that must not deflect our realisation that this is definitely a man-made, carbon-emission event, which is killing the Australian reef,' Prof Marshall said.....

ABC News, 28 March 2016:

An aerial survey of the northern Great Barrier Reef has shown that 95 per cent of the reefs are now severely bleached — far worse than previously thought.
Professor Terry Hughes, a coral reef expert based at James Cook University in Townsville who led the survey team, said the situation is now critical.
"This will change the Great Barrier Reef forever," Professor Hughes told 7.30.
"We're seeing huge levels of bleaching in the northern thousand-kilometre stretch of the Great Barrier Reef."
Of the 520 reefs he surveyed, only four showed no evidence of bleaching.
From Cairns to the Torres Strait, the once colourful ribbons of reef are a ghostly white.
"It's too early to tell precisely how many of the bleached coral will die, but judging from the extreme level even the most robust corals are snow white, I'd expect to see about half of those corals die in the coming month or so," Professor Hughes said.....
Professor Hughes said he is frustrated about the whole climate change debate.
"The government has not been listening to us for the past 20 years," he said.
"It has been inevitable that this bleaching event would happen, and now it has.
"We need to join the global community in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"For me, personally, it was devastating to look out of the chopper window and see reef after reef destroyed by bleaching.
"But really the emotion is not so much sadness as anger.
"I'm really angry that the government isn't listening to us, to the evidence we've been providing to them since 1998.".....

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