Terminal damage to barrier reef unavoidable

03 Sep, 2009 05:58 AM

THE Great Barrier Reef's chances of survival from even moderate climate change is poor and "catastrophic damage" may not be avoided, the first Reef Outlook Report has found.

And it concludes that the rate of climate change backed by the Federal Government would result in "severe" coral bleaching and threaten the habitats of key species on the reef.

The five-year study by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority was released yesterday by the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, who used the occasion to announce a new water-quality plan for the reef.

In a series of dire predictions for the Australian icon, the report finds that carbon in the atmosphere will have to be kept to under 400 parts per million (ppm) if animal species and coral are to have a low to medium vulnerability to climate change.

The current level of carbon in the atmosphere is 387 ppm.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has on several occasions publicly supported a 450 ppm target for carbon in the atmosphere - a figure also backed recently by the Major Economies Forum that includes the United States and China.

The report finds if carbon reaches 450 ppm in the atmosphere, which is predicted for 2035, it would result in "severe mass bleaching" and destroy the reef's ability to grow new coral.

An eminent marine researcher and the former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Charlie Veron, who helped to prepare the report, said the Rudd Government-backed 450 ppm target would result in the complete death of the reef by 2050.

"Mr Rudd would not be supporting the 450 target if he knew the facts," Mr Veron said yesterday. "This isn't a theory - all the science is incredibly concrete now and it is backed by everybody in the coral research field."

A spokesman for WWF, Nick Heath, said the report showed climate change had already affected levels of calcification, a process which helps grow and strengthen coral, which have collapsed dramatically since 1980 as the ocean around the reef warms and becomes more acidic.

Mr Garrett said the report found that the Barrier Reef continued to be one of the world's healthiest coral systems, but that the emerging threat from climate change required action on global warming.

"The world's only got one Great Barrier Reef, Australia has only got one Great Barrier Reef. It is our most important natural environmental asset," Mr Garrett said.

On the back of yesterday's release Mr Garrett and the Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, committed to a binding target to cut the amount of pesticides and other agricultural run-off onto the reef by half.

The report found one-third of the reef is exposed to agricultural run-off, which hurts coral and marine life.

The Rudd Government has spent $325 million to improve the health of the reef, including $76 million to work with nearby farmers to limit agricultural runoff. Yesterday's release is the first of what will be a five-yearly review of the reef's health.

The report also found that the general health of marine life in the reef system is strong with no extinctions, but some species, including dugongs, turtles and some sharks have seen significant declines in numbers.

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3/09/2009 7:25:08 AM

We've been hearing this for years, but nothing has happened. This is just more propaganda from the climate geeks. I guess the more they try to shove it down your throat the more sceptical you become.
3/09/2009 3:44:15 PM

And yet Morton Bay is like a cesspit and that's OK. I have never seen worse water in Australia than what you see on the ferry crossing to Russell Island. Why, if Anna Blight is so keen to clean up the already clean Barrier reef, is she not giving any attention to her own back yard?
4/09/2009 8:14:45 AM

I will bet my super fund against Charlie Veron's super fund, that when we arrive in 2050 the Barrier Reef will still be there and still be in generally good health.
4/09/2009 8:28:32 AM

Five out of the seven rivers in the South East failed in their last reports and even went backwards. "Ds" all round, but no knee-jerk reaction. Obviously the WWF have not screamed about this, so the Bligh Government has done nothing. Too many votes at risk, eh. Anna keeps blubbering and blundering along. Makes every statement sounding like some political electioneering broadcast. (Can she talk naturally?) Keeps on hammering graziers and cane growers. How simple and blind can she be? Relies too much on her advisors who are pure at heart WWF members. Who is running this State? Not Anna (B)ligh that's for sure!
4/09/2009 8:53:53 AM

Of the millions that have been allocated by state and federal governments; just how much has actually reached the pockets of the farmers that have an influence on the runoff? Most of that money has been tied up by bureaucratic governments and regional NRM bodies saving their own jobs whilst the farmers' livelihoods and respect are taken away.
Ian Mott
4/09/2009 9:39:46 AM

Nothing cleans up sediment loads like a good dam. Wivenhoe Dam is still only 75% full and it captured all the nutrient and sediment load from half the Brisbane River Catchment this past wet season. The next stage of the Burdekin Falls Dam would enable complete sediment capture from all but the very largest, rarest floods. And it would still be doing it in 1000 years time. These departmental criminals don't want solutions. They just want excuses to continue persecuting the bush.
the lorax
4/09/2009 9:49:20 AM

Have a look at the recent funding announcements by DAFF, all the cliamte change adaption money has gone to "facilitation": and "bringing communties together" or "community capacity buiilding" or "workshops", nothing to actually do anything. The old school mentality of "teaching and showing" farmers needs to be changed to actually doing something. Pay farmers propoerly so they can afford to look after thier land better and can afford to be sustainable. The problem is not the ideas it is the execution which is dominated by left wing academics who have never done a day's work in thier lives.
4/09/2009 11:25:12 AM

Years ago we were told the reef was doomed because of the Crown of Thorns Star Fish. Was the above the belief of a genius or a simpleton? Either nature is taking care of that starfish or it's no longer fashionable for comment. A far more serious concern is the amount of chemical compounds farmers purchase and distribute over vast agriculture areas of this country. Thousands of litres of herbicides, insecticides, miticides, & fungicides are being used by food & fibre producers. Although it is sprayed onto the ground, a large percentage vaporises and becomes a component that all life breathes. Ask a farmer, what happened to the chemicals sprayed onto his paddocks last year. The inane reply "Dunno Mate". Widespread no-till chemical farming certainly produces good crops and reduced soil degradation, however it has very dangerous unhealthy consequences. Perhaps a better idea would be to help farmers with the cost of fencing off the areas subject to degradation and used for grazing only. The experienced farmer would have no trouble ascertaining which ares of the farm is not suitable for constant cultivation. The balance could be farmed mechanically without soil damage.


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