Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Health

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Government to invest in new research into coral bleaching

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Australian Government will provide financial and logistical support for new research into coral bleaching events impacting the Great Barrier Reef.

The University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute (GCI) surveyed 40 sites in the Far Northern section of the Reef in 2012 and repeat surveys at 30 of these sites were undertaken by the GCI at the same sites in 2014, following Tropical Cyclone Ita.

In light of the current bleaching event, the Australian Government will support a repeat survey of the 40 sites in September 2016 through the provision of a suitable vessel and associated costs associated with data analysis and interpretation.

The GCI, in collaboration with GBRMPA, will undertake the survey using highly repeatable and semi-autonomous survey methodologies in conjunction with advanced image recognition

This data will provide valuable information regarding the mortality associated with these recent impacts, and provide insights into the future resilience and recovery potential of the reefs in the Far Northern sector.

The imagery provides extensive engagement and outreach opportunities, that will allow Australians to experience and learn about the future of the Reef under a changing climate.

This information is particularly important for the future understanding of the Reef given that the frequency of coral bleaching events and the severity of tropical cyclones are predicted to increase in the future.

Continuing to invest in reef science is critical for ongoing management of our iconic natural wonder.

This is particularly important, with the current coral bleaching event now reaching level three.

This support builds on the unprecedented steps taken by the Australian Government to strengthen the long-term health of resilience of one of world’s most amazing natural icons – the Great Barrier Reef.

Like all reefs around the world, the Great Barrier Reef faces challenges. That’s why we’ve developed the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan – the most comprehensive plan ever to secure the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef for generations to come.

We are continuing to monitor the current bleaching event through a combination of community and industry partnerships, rigorous science and advanced technology.

With El Niño conditions there remains a risk and we must continue to monitor and protect the reef.

Scientists from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University are currently conducting scientific surveys in remote areas of the Park, and continue to monitor heat stress through satellites and temperature loggers.

The tourism industry and broader community are providing valuable reports through the Government’s ‘Eye on the Reef’ program.

Coral can recover from bleaching if it doesn’t remain stressed for too long. The most effective way to protect the reef is to ensure it is healthy, which will help it withstand the effects of climate change.

In the short-term, Government is working to boost coral health through actions such as culling the predator crown-of-thorns starfish on high value reefs and ensuring reef users comply with the rules so biodiversity is protected.

Improving water quality is a focus of the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan which will increase reef resilience in the medium term, while global efforts to tackle climate change will improve the long-term outlook for coral reefs around the world.

Our work to protect the great Barrier Reef resulted in the World Heritage Committee declaring last July that Australia was a global role model for the management of World Heritage properties and that the Reef would not be listed ‘in danger’ but rather was returned to the highest status level on the World Heritage list.

Australian and Queensland governments are investing a projected $2 billion over the next decade to protect the Great Barrier Reef.


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