Great Barrier Reef under serious threat
Australia's Great Barrier Reef is in serious jeopardy as global
warming and chemical runoff threaten to kill marine species and cause
serious outbreaks of disease, a report warned Wednesday.
A bleached section of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, AFP
The World Heritage-listed reef was already showing the impacts of
climate change, with two episodes of mass coral bleaching in the past 10
years, the Marine Park Authority's inaugural reef outlook report said.
"While populations of almost all marine species are intact and there
are no records of extinctions, some ecologically important species, such
as dugongs, marine turtles, seabirds, black teatfish and some sharks,
have declined significantly," the authority wrote. Coral disease,
outbreaks of toxic blue-green algae and infestation by pestilent species
such as the crown-of-thorns starfish appeared to be becoming more
frequent and more serious, it added.
The 345,000-square-kilometre (133,000-square-mile) attraction had
deteriorated significantly since European settlement in 1788 and was at
a "crossroads", the report warned.
"Almost all the biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef will be
affected by climate change, with coral reef habitats the most
vulnerable," the report said.
"Coral bleaching resulting from increasing sea temperature and lower
rates of calcification in skeleton-building organisms such as corals
because of ocean acidification, are the effects of most concern and are
The runoff of nitrogen-based pesticides from local farming areas was
a particular concern, the report said, adding that their impact remained
"largely unknown". Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the report
showed strong decisive action needed to be taken, and pledged to halve
agricultural runoff by 2013 and to reduce sediment loads by 20 percent
"Improving the quality of water flowing into the reef is one of the
most important things we can do to help the reef withstand the impacts
of climate change," Garrett said. AFP