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World’s Largest Coral System, Great Barrier Reef may Figure in UNESCO’s ‘World Heritage in Danger’ List

It was due to the warming of sea water and an increase in its acidity through the increased presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

Great Barrier Reef. Pixabay

Sydney, December 2, 2016: The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral system off the coast of Australia, is at a high risk of being included in Unesco’s ‘World Heritage in Danger’ list, an official said on Friday.

Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Steven Miles told ABC news that the latest case of coral bleaching has increased the likelihood that Unesco will include the Reef on its Red List.

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The current bleaching was the worst recorded on the Reef caused by record high water temperatures, Efe news reported.

The Australia government had sent the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation its Reef 2050 Plan, a document that outlines management measures for the next 35 years in those areas.

It was approved in 2015 to prevent the Great Barrier from being declared in danger.

The report noted that 32 of the 151 actions planned in the first five years were completed, focusing on managing the impact from ports and dredging, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said in a statement.

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However, since then there was catastrophic bleaching event, as well as the Queensland’s Parliament failed to pass the land clearing laws.

“These two things together increased the risk there will be that level of attention,” Miles told ABC.

Bleaching has killed 67 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and experts estimate that it would take at least 10 to 15 years for the coral in the northernmost, the most affected area, to recover.

The Australian World Wildlife Fund (WWF) questioned the progress made in the government’s report and denounced the failure to comply with measures to improve water quality, such as the regulation of land clearing.

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Th health of the Great Barrier Reef, home to hundreds of types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and some 4,000 types of molluscs, began deteriorating in the 1990s.

It was due to the warming of sea water and an increase in its acidity through the increased presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. (IANS)

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef To Get Help From Rescue Bot

The Great Barrier Reef is about the same size as Italy or Japan.

great barrier reef
A large piece of coral can be seen in the lagoon on Lady Elliot Island, on the Great Barrier Reef, northeast of Bundaberg town in Queensland, Australia. VOA

For the first time an underwater robot is to be used to plant baby coral to parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef damaged by mass bleaching, as scientists plan to collect hundreds of millions of coral spawn off the Queensland city of Cairns in the coming weeks.

Most coral reproduce through spawning, where eggs and sperm are pushed into the water at the same time. In northern Australia, researchers are preparing to harvest this mass release of coral spawn on the Great Barrier Reef. They will be reared into baby corals in floating enclosures. Then they will be delivered as so-called ‘larval clouds’ to Vlasoff Reef about an hour’s sailing from Cairns by a semi-autonomous robot.

Professor Peter Harrison, the director of the Marine Ecology Research Center at Southern Cross University, said science is giving a nature a helping hand.

great barrier reef
Many ways wee introduced in the past to map ocean floors and the newest one is from Japan. Pixabay

“What we are trying to do now is compensate for the loss of corals that would normally provide enough larvae for the system to naturally heal,” Harrison said.

Large areas of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have been damaged by severe bleaching – or loss of the algae that gives coral its color. The bleaching is caused by rising water temperatures and made worse by climate change.

The experiment on Vlasoff reef, which was badly affected by the mass bleaching, will be coordinated by divers, who will guide the spawn-spreading robot, known as the LarvalBot.

Professor Matthew Dunbabin from the Queensland University of Technology says time is of essence.

great barrier reef
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia. VOA

“In future projects we are hoping that we can start to do that more autonomously, but this is very new and we are up against the clock in terms of trying to get this in the field as quick as possible to make sure that we can have a reef to preserve,” Dunbabin said.

A coral reef is made up of millions of tiny animals called coral polyps. The reefs are critical ecosystems, and provide a home for at least a quarter of all marine species.

Also Read: Australia Rejects U.N. Climate Report, Continues Using Coal

The Great Barrier Reef is about the same size as Italy or Japan. Thirty species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises have been recorded along the reef.

It faces a range of threats, from climate change and overfishing, to the run-off of pollution from farms, to coral-eating crown of thorns starfish. (VOA)