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Could the Great Barrier Reef Heal Itself? New Study Offers Cautious Hope
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.
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By Dr. Brian R. Shmaefsky
One year after the Flint Water Crisis I was invited to participate in a water rights session at a conference hosted by the US Human Rights Network in Austin, Texas in 2015. The reason I was at the conference was to promote efforts by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to encourage scientists to shine a light on how science intersects with human rights, in the U.S. as well as in the context of international development. My plan was to sit at an information booth and share my stories about water quality projects I spearheaded in communities in Bangladesh, Colombia, and the Philippines. I did not expect to be thrown into conversations that made me reexamine how scientists use their knowledge as a public good.
The shipping industry is coming to grips with its egregious carbon footprint, as it has an outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and to the dumping of chemicals into open seas. Already, the global shipping industry contributes about 2 percent of global carbon emissions, about the same as Germany, as the BBC reported.
The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC overlooks the Tidal Basin, a man-made body of water surrounded by cherry trees. Visitors can stroll along the water's edge, gazing up at the stately monument.
But at high tide, people are forced off parts of the path. Twice a day, the Tidal Basin floods and water spills onto the walkway.