Quantcast

Could the Great Barrier Reef Heal Itself? New Study Offers Cautious Hope

Climate
Great Barrier Reef. Lock the Gate Alliance / Flickr

Australia's Great Barrier Reef may be able to heal itself from bleaching events, starfish and other disturbances with the help of a group of "source" reefs, according to recent research.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland, CSIRO, Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Sheffield, found that three percent of the coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef are "robust source reefs." In order to meet the criteria of a "source reef," the reefs need to be well-connected to other reefs through shifting currents but also be able to sustain bleaching events and be less susceptible to crown-of-thorn starfish outbreaks.


"Finding these 100 reefs is a little like revealing the cardiovascular system of the Great Barrier Reef," said professor Peter Mumby from the University of Queensland's school of biological sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies.

In the past two years, warming waters subjected the Great Barrier Reef, a 1,400-mile chain of 3,800 individual reefs, to unprecedented bleaching events, devastating two-thirds of the World Heritage site. If protected from outside threats, such as pollution, the cool-water reefs could supply larvae to 45 percent of the reef. Scientists have only recently begun to understand the connectivity of coral reefs through ocean currents. These latest findings will likely be seen as a boost to efforts already underway to save Australia's reef, which brings in nearly $6 billion in tourism annually.

"The presence of these well-connected reefs on the Great Barrier Reef means that the whole system of coral reefs possesses a level of resilience that may help it bounce back from disturbances," lead author of the study, Karlo Hock of the University of Queensland, told Agence France Presse.

Other experts warn that the paper is overly optimistic. According to one professor, John Alroy, from Macquarie University, who spoke to The Guardian, the paper doesn't fully acknowledge the toll that worsening climate change will exact on the "source reefs." According to Alroy they likely won't survive.

Last May, scientists cautioned the Australian government that its plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef is no longer achievable due to the stark of impacts of climate change.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Europe is bracing for a second heat wave in less than a month. TropicalTidbits.com

Europe is gearing up for another extreme heat wave that could set all-time records for several European countries.

Read More Show Less
Modern agricultural greenhouses in the Netherlands use LED lights to support plant growth. GAPS / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Kevin M. Folta

A nighttime arrival at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport flies you over the bright pink glow of vegetable production greenhouses. Growing crops under artificial light is gaining momentum, particularly in regions where produce prices can be high during seasons when sunlight is sparse.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
On Oct. 4, 2017, the Senate EPW Committee held a hearing on Wehrum's nomination. EPA / YouTube screenshot

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) former head of the Office of Air and Radiation who was instrumental in drafting policies that eased climate protection rules and pollution standards is under investigation by a federal watchdog for his dealings with the fossil fuel industry he was supposed to be regulating, according to the New York Times.

Read More Show Less

It's no secret that the Trump administration has championed fossil fuels and scoffed at renewable energy. But the Trump administration is trying to keep something secret: the climate crisis. That's according to a new analysis from the watchdog group Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) who found that more than a quarter of the references to climate change on .gov websites vanished.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

New York is officially the first state in the union to ban cat declawing.

Read More Show Less
People walk in the Shaw neighborhood on July 20 in Washington, DC, where an excessive heat warning was in effect according to the NWS. Alex Wroblewski / Getty Images

By Adrienne Hollis

Climate change is a threat multiplier. This is a fact I know to be true. I also know that our most vulnerable populations, particularly environmental justice communities — people of color and/or low socioeconomic status — are suffering and will continue to suffer first and worst from the adverse effects of climate change. Case in point? Extreme heat.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Anne Danahy, MS, RDN

Coconut is the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera).

Read More Show Less