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Coral bleaching killing our reefs
By DEBBIE XINOS
CORAL bleaching is killing the world’s coral reef systems.
But according to experts, the Great Barrier Reef has escaped serious damage — for now.
Unless stringent management practices were adopted worldwide the future for even the Great Barrier Reef was bleak, they said.
The warning was issued yesterday at the International Tropical Marine Ecosystems Management Symposium conference in Townsville.
Marine Ecologist Terry Done said this year’s warm weather had caused coral bleaching on a record number of reefs.
He said while this could be attributed to unprecedented climatic changes, it was too early to lay blame on the effects of global warming.
“If the projections of global climate change do come about it’s likely we will see more years like this in the future”, Dr Done said.
Add to that increased human activity and the likelihood of wide-spread coral reef destruction was almost guaranteed, reef expert John McManus said.
Dr McManus said the main concern was the overfishing of reef stocks, which could affect the natural balance between fish and algae.
“This the real test — we have a large part of the world’s corals which have been bleached”, he said. “Those which come back and those which don’t will tell us lot about the effects of coral bleaching.
Reef expert Gregor Hobson said Australia, in particular North Queensland, played a vital role in ensuring the survival or the world’s reefs.
The Great Barrier Reef’s status as the largest and healthiest reef system in the world makes it an ideal role model for other countries, he said.
The Minister of Environment, Robert Hill, had previously announced that high temperature was not the cause of coral bleaching, and issued an order that no Australian Government employee, including those at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Protected Area and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, was allowed to discuss any possible connection.
The Australian authorities refused to allow me to present the global coral reef temperature data at their 1998 coral reef management conference in Townsville, during the height of the mass bleaching that affected most of the world’s coral reefs that year.
Hundreds of coral reef managers from all over the world, whose reefs were bleaching and dying at that very moment, were told instead that nobody knew the cause, except that it was NOT high temperature!
At the official press conference afterwards, Terry Done, leader of the national GBR monitoring efforts, was asked by a reporter “Dr Done, is it true that the Australian Government has ordered all government employees not to discuss any possible connection between global warming and bleaching?”. Terry, wearing a big grin, said “I couldn’t possibly comment on that!”.
The Australian authorities completely ignored these warnings, and now them seem to be surprised that what happened to the GBR was exactly what I had predicted would happen at these temperatures.
The very Australian scientists who refused to admit that global warming was a threat to their coral reefs, now claim to have “discovered” the impacts, as usual by ignoring what was done before them.
By change I’m back in Townsville 20 years later to give an invited keynote talk at the Global Asia Pacific Ecotourism Conference, and mentioned how we kept entire coral reefs in Maldives, Thailand and Indonesia alive with Biorock technology during severe bleaching events that killed more than 95% of the corals on nearby reefs.
But the Australian authorities still won’t allow us to do this in the GBR! Yesterday Cairns had record hot temperatures, and the bleaching season is fast approaching.
The facts have long been in: we passed the global temperature tipping point for mass coral bleaching in the 1980s, and governments have been denying the facts for more than 30 years: http://www.globalcoral.org/we-have-already-exceeded-the-upper-temperature-limit-for-coral-reef-ecosystems-which-are-dying-at-todays-co2-levels/
Until we have intelligent and informed political leadership, we can expect no action to reduce atmospheric CO2 to rescue our planet’s life support systems in time to prevent the functional extinction of coral reef ecosystems, a capital crime against the environment that will take millions of years to undo.
Yesterday’s rejection of the US national climate change report by the US president shows once again that when lies trump truth, the dark ages follow.