Please select your home edition
Edition
Helm Events 728x90

Climate is altering the Great Barrier Reef

by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies on 2 Oct 2012
That wonderful natural wonder of the world known as the Great Barrier Reef. John Curnow ©
Satellite measurement of sea surface temperatures has yielded clear proof of major changes taking place in the waters of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef over the past 25 years, marine scientists have found.

The changes have big implications for the future management of the GBR and its marine protected areas say Dr. Natalie Ban and Professor Bob Pressey of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University, who led the study with Dr. Scarla Weeks from the University of Queensland.

'When we looked back at satellite data collected since 1985, we found evidence that most of the regions of the GBR are changing significantly, in terms of sea surface temperature – especially in the southern part of the reef,' Dr Ban, who is the lead author of a new scientific paper on the issue, says.

'Risk of coral bleaching increases with higher water temperatures. Across the whole reef we found water temperatures increasing by an average of 0.2 of a degree over a quarter of a century – but the increase was significantly more in some areas.

'For example, off Rockhampton the water has warmed by about half a degree over the last 25 years.'

The changes were also altering the seasonal patterns of water temperature at particular places along the reef, Dr. Ban says. 'In some areas summer is coming earlier and lasting longer; in others, both summers and winters are warmer than in the past. This all affects the sea life.'

The research has revealed temperature conditions are dynamic, with warmer waters moving in both space and time – posing new questions for the management of Green Zones and other protected areas which tend to be fixed.

'Some people think we ought to have the highest levels of protection for areas that are changing the least, so they remain as refugia to recharge the surrounding reef areas,' Dr Ban says.

'Others argue the opposite – that the greatest protection should be afforded to the most vulnerable areas.

'Others still argue that Green Zones and other types of restrictions should migrate geographically along with the climate – that their boundaries should change gradually in line with trends in water temperature and reef biology.

'Our aim in publishing this paper on what is actually happening is to stimulate and inform this discussion, so that we can come up with the best and most flexible system for managing the GBR through what will undoubtedly be momentous environmental change.'

The present Green Zones, where fishing is prohibited, cover the same temperature ranges as the whole reef, she says – but the debate on what to do next is only now getting under way.

With a view to encouraging discussion, the team has put forward three alternative scenarios for how the temperature data can be used to design appropriate management strategies for protected areas.

'We need to understand what we are managing for, to have the best management plan,' she explains.

Australia is recognised as a world leader in managing coral reefs, and was again leading global thinking about how to best manage them as waters warm and conditions change. 'We hope that our research will also prove valuable to countries of the Coral Triangle who are trying to manage the world’s centre of coral diversity through this challenging period,' she says.

Their paper Conservation Objectives and Sea-Surface Temperature Anomalies in the Great Barrier Reef by Natalie C.Ban, Robert L Pressey and Scarla Weeks, appears online in the journal Conservation Biology. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies website
Ancasta Ker 33 660x82Wildwind 2016 660x82Bakewell-White Yacht Design

Related Articles

Great Barrier Reef managers and industry prepare for summer
Marine park managers, scientists and experts recently met for the annual pre-summer workshop Marine park managers, scientists and experts recently met for the annual pre-summer workshop to assess climate-related risks to the Great Barrier Reef over the coming months. Current predictions by the Bureau of Meteorology and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are for a summer of average sea temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef.
Posted on 7 Dec
Fourth Blog from on board Perie Banou II
Oh no - not the coffee cup Oh no - not the coffee cup - Jon keeps us all entertained as he approaches Reunion Island. The B&G chartplotter tells me since leaving the pleasant mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon (by world standards, an isolated town), that I have sailed some 2559 NM and have 751nm to go to Le Port Reunion Island. French. Reunion is a Suburb (department) of Paris. Population 844,000.
Posted on 23 Nov
Third Blog from onboard Perie Banou II
Wind over the last week has been quiet and mild - Trade Winds from South East and South South East. It is 0830am here. 1030 in Western Australia. Windy. Rather Windy. Wind over the last week has been quiet and mild - Trade Winds from South East and South South East. Barometer 1018 to 1020 whatever they are. Last night I tapped the barometer and it sorta went oops. 1015hPa. Blimey.
Posted on 18 Nov
Second Blog from onboard Perie Banou II
This is day 13 since leaving the mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon. Remote region. Beautiful town. This is day 13 since leaving the mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon. Remote region. Beautiful town. Kept cooler by the strong south winds, which make the trees bend and grow to the north. Carnarvon is nice, especially the months of September, October, November, and December. The wind is strong. Often near gale strength, with squalls and blue skies.
Posted on 15 Nov
Mayflower 400 Crowdfunding Campaign
On 24th October a Crowdfunding campaign was started to help raise funds to build the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) On 24th October a Crowdfunding campaign was started to help raise funds to build the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) which aims to sail across the North Atlantic Ocean in 2020 in the footsteps of the Pilgrim Fathers.
Posted on 5 Nov
Predictwind - Images of Hurricane Matthew's trajectory - 0800GMT Oct 7
Hurricane Matthew is now moving up the Florida coast, having bypassed Miami. Hurricane Matthew is now moving up the Florida coast, having bypassed Miami. In these images from Predictwind's wind mapping facility we can see the path and shape of the of the hurricane as it moves past Daytona Beach moving along the US coast before coming to a stop around Jacksonville.
Posted on 7 Oct
Predictwind - Images of Hurricane Matthew's trajectory - 1
In these images from Predictwind's wind mapping facility we can see the path and shape of the of the hurricane Hurricane Matthew has wrecked havoc in the Caribbean and Haiti in particular. In these images from Predictwind's wind mapping facility we can see the path and shape of the of the hurricane as it moves towards a landing point on the US coast just north of Miami and then moves along the US coast before coming to a stop around Jacksonville. A second hurricane is aimed at Bermuda.
Posted on 6 Oct
Terry Kohler, driving force of North Technology dies at 82
Terry Kohler who purchased North Sails was the driving force behind the North Technology Group, has died aged 82 Terry Kohler who purchased North Sails from Lowell North over 30 years ago and was the driving force behind the North Technology Group, has died aged 82. With the combined company of North sails and Southern Spars, Kohler created the 'Engine above the Deck' concept which married the technology used to build the sails and spars to be designed and work as an integral unit.
Posted on 21 Sep
'Grate Art' in Hong Kong
Hong Kong charity pioneers environmental awareness through innovative storm grate installations In an effort to help Hong Kongers play their part in protecting the world’s ocean, Ocean Recovery Alliance is raising awareness through a unique public art installation called ‘Grate Art’. Hong Kong’s drainage system is one of the main sources for debris outflow into the ocean, and Ocean Recovery Alliance is tackling this problem upstream through an initiative that uses “art for awareness”.
Posted on 14 Sep
Zhik sailors win 17 sailing medals at 2016 Olympic Regatta
The 2016 Olympic games are over and what a Games they have been - Zhik sailors dominated Zhik sailors won almost 60% of the medals contested at Rio de Janeiro. It was a regatta which tested sailors and gear - with one day being the most severe conditions ever experienced at an Olympic regatta. For the Zhik team riders on the waters of Rio, four years and more of hard work and dedication have paid off for many.
Posted on 29 Aug