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We just spent two weeks surveying the Great Barrier Reef. What we saw was an utter tragedy

Terry Hughes and Morgan Pratchett write in The Conversation (7.4.20) about their latest research on the health of the Great Barrier Reef, describing how, for the first time, severe bleaching has struck all three of the Reef's regions.

'The Australian summer just gone will be remembered as the moment when human-caused climate change struck hard. First came drought, then deadly bushfires, and now a bout of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef – the third in just five years. Tragically, the 2020 bleaching is severe and the most widespread we have ever recorded.

'Coral bleaching at regional scales is caused by spikes in sea temperatures during unusually hot summers. The first recorded mass bleaching event along Great Barrier Reef occurred in 1998, then the hottest year on record.

'Since then we’ve seen four more mass bleaching events – and more temperature records broken – in 2002, 2016, 2017, and again in 2020.

'... After five bleaching events, the number of reefs that have escaped severe bleaching continues to dwindle. Those reefs are located offshore, in the far north and in remote parts of the south.

'The Great Barrier Reef will continue to lose corals from heat stress, until global emissions of greenhouse gasses are reduced to net zero, and sea temperatures stabilise. Without urgent action to achieve this outcome, it’s clear our coral reefs will not survive business-as-usual emissions.'

Australian government was 'blindsided' by UN recommendation to list Great Barrier Reef as in-danger. But it's no great surprise

Jon Day and colleagues write in The Conversation (23.6.21) about UNESCO's draft recommendation that the Great Barrier Reef should be regarded as 'in danger', prompting defensive posturing from the federal Coalition govermnent.

'The Australian government on Tuesday expressed shock at a draft decision to list the Great Barrier Reef as "in danger". But the recommendation has been looming for some time.

'The recommendation, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), acknowledges Australia's commitment to implementing the Reef 2050 Plan, an overarching framework to protect the natural wonder for future generations.

'But the "outstanding universal value" of the Great Barrier Reef has continued to decline.

'The draft decision will now be considered at the World Heritage Committee meeting, to be held online next month. The development is significant for several reasons - not least that Australia's progress under the Paris Agreement is being linked to its stewardship of the reef.'

 

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