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The Syndey Morning Herald

04 May 2013


The United Nations has put the Queensland and federal governments on notice that the Great Barrier Reef could be added to a list of endangered world heritage sites.

In a draft decision released Friday night, expected to be adopted when UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meets in Cambodia next month, it will be recommended the Great Barrier Reef be included in the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2014 ‘‘in the absence of a firm and demonstrable commitment’’ from the state and federal governments to take action. Read more

 

 

Dr. Tara Clark (UQ)

Researchers from NERP Project 1.3 are well on their way to uncovering many of the Great Barrier Reef’s secrets by studying fossil and dead coral remains.

Their results have documented long term changes on coral reef ecosystems spanning thousands of years, as well as more recent change that coincides with human settlement on the Queensland coastline.

Using cores taken through the reef using a percussion coring technique (put simply, aluminium tubing hammered into the reef similar to a star picket for a fence), the researchers are able to examine how coral communities have changed through time. By dating coral fragments within the cores using the highly precise uranium-series dating method, they are able to determine the timing of significant changes in community structure, storm events, as well as reef accretion rates.

So far, more than 140 reef matrix cores have been collected over the entire length of the inshore region of the Great Barrier Reef, including the far north, central and southern regions.

Cores taken through reefs in the southern Great Barrier Reef have revealed a long history of reef development for several millennia. However, close examination of the corals present in the cores suggest that at some locations there have been reef turn on/turn-off events throughout the reefs history that coincide with the rise and fall of past sea-level. At other sites, changes in coral community composition occurred several centuries ago - well before European settlement - suggesting that other non-anthropogenic factors (e.g. climate) were the major drivers of abrupt change in coral communities in the past.

More recent changes in coral community structure have been seen within cores taken from reefs adjacent to the Wet Tropics region. Preliminary evidence suggests that these changes coincide with the timing of a shift in coral community structure observed in cores taken from Pelorus Island, central Great Barrier Reef. These results imply that significant changes on inshore reef ecosystems may have occurred over a much broader spatial scale. At Pelorus Island, coral communities were found to have switched from an Acropora dominated community to that characterised by corals typical of turbid water environments between 1950-1970 AD. While the exact cause of this change is unknown, the researchers speculate that the lack of Acropora recovery is due to the chronic increase in sediment and nutrient delivery to the region since European settlement.

These case studies are just an example of the many exciting discoveries emerging from this research, and demonstrate the need to understand both long (centennial, millennial) and short-term (decadal) changes in coral reef communities, as well as local (e.g. water quality) and global scale (e.g. El Niño Southern Oscillation) drivers of change in order to appropriately assess the current state of the Great Barrier Reef as well as the effects of existing management strategies.

For more information, contact Prof. John Pandolfi (j.pandolfi@uq.edu.au), Prof. Jian-xi Zhao (j.zhao@uq.edu.au) or Dr. Tara Clark (t.clark1@uq.edu.au)

 

 

BBC

17 January 2014


Australia's Great Barrier Reef - the world's largest living organism - has been entrancing divers with its vivid colours and curious lifeforms for centuries.

But for one man, the glimpses he caught under water were not enough - he wanted to see more of the life hidden from most people. Read more

 

 

 

Our building of towns, cities and roads and use of land for farming or mining has a major impact not only on the land itself but on our fresh water environments, and the marine ecosystems downstream, including the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA). Fresh water carries suspended sediments, nutrients and pesticides down to the GBRWHA, impacting the health and survival of all organisms living there; the reef itself, the seagrass beds and all the other plants and animals that depend on those ecosystems for survival.

This issue has been recognised for some time, and in 2003 State and Federal Governments endorsed the Reef Water Quality Protection plan (Reef Plan), put in place to “halt and reverse the decline in water quality entering the Reef”1 An update on progress towards that goal was published in 2009, with another due this year.

The development of the Reef Plan has been guided by Scientific Consensus Statement which involved a review and synthesis of significant advances in scientific knowledge on water quality issues in the Great Barrier Reef. The Statement, developed by a multidisciplinary group of scientists with oversight from the Reef Plan Independent Science Panel, is expected to be presented to the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum on 10th July.

The Statement’s lead author, Jon Brodie (TropWATER2) discussed the continuing decline in coral cover and seagrass, and dependent turtles and dugongs. Coral cover on some reefs is estimated to have been around 50% in the 1960’s, and has declined from 27% in 1985 to less than 14% now, with a projection to drop to less than 5% by 20253.

There is unanimous acceptance that increased loads of suspended sediment, nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and pesticides, particularly PSII herbicides, pose an unacceptable risk to some parts of the GBRWHA. Jon Brodie reiterated the role of enhanced nitrogen inputs in crown-of-thorns-starfish (COTS) outbreaks, macroalgal dominance over corals on near-shore reefs, coral bleaching susceptibility and interactions with suspended sediments to smother corals.

He considers the outlook for the GBR to be poor, with an outlook of continued COTS outbreaks, extreme weather and increased coastal development, and emphasised the need to do the things we can do; manage terrestrial runoff and improve management of coastal developments and agricultural land uses.

1  http://www.reefplan.qld.gov.au/about.aspx
2  https://research.jcu.edu.au/research/tropwater
3  http://www.nerptropical.edu.au/publication/project-51-journal-27-year-decline-coral-cover-great-barrier-reef-and-its-causes

BACK to Canberra article

    The University of Queensland

    23 September 2013


    The Catlin Seaview Survey last year made one of the great wonders of the world – Australia's Great Barrier Reef – accessible to anyone with an internet connection. 

    Now the visual access to the reef that has been seen on Google Street View will go even further, with the launch of the Catlin Global Reef Record, a free online resource that will make the survey's imagery invaluable to scientific researchers. Read more

     

     

    The Conversation

    17 July 2013


    Australia’s natural resources are reaching a crisis point as they struggle to support and sustain our lifestyles. But while degradation of these systems continues, research suggests the level of concern for the environment is falling. So could encouraging some national pride in our natural resources help improve the environment’s outlook? Read more

     

     

     

    ABC News

    27 October 2013


    Observers on Lady Elliot Island off south-east Queensland say they have never seen so many endangered green turtles mating so early in the season.

    The island, at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, is a haven for wildlife and for the past month it has been a focal point of animal activity. Read more

     

     

     

    CSIRO Publishing

     

    Puschendorf, R., Alford, R.A., Ross, A., Hoskin, C.J., Cashins, S. (2012) Waterfall Frog Litoria nannotis, in: Queensland's Threatened Animals. CSIRO Publishing.

     

    Related to Project 3.3

    The Newsport Daily

    11 February 2014


    Of over 173,000 protected areas, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is the second most ‘irreplaceable’ natural World Heritage Areas on earth and the sixth most irreplaceable protected area, according to a team of international scientists.

    Data on the world’s 173,461 terrestrial protected areas and 21,419 species on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species were analysed to provide advice on improving the effectiveness of the earth’s protected areas in protecting our global biodiversity. Read more

     

     

     

    The Conversation

    28 May 2013


    When the Great Barrier Reef was first placed on the World Heritage List in 1981, it was recognised as being home to a huge diversity of species, many of them threatened. Conserving the reef’s habitats would therefore be a great way to protect many different species all at the same time.

    Naturally, some of these thousands of species have attracted more attention than others. Generally these are large animals with high tourism value – often called the “charismatic megafauna” – such as marine mammals, turtles, sea snakes, sharks, rays and seabirds. Many of these species are listed as either threatened or migratory under Australia’s environmental legislationRead more

     

     

     

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