“Great Barrier Reef could adapt to climate change, scientists say” – Facts, fallacies and fanciful thinking.

3 thoughts on ““Great Barrier Reef could adapt to climate change, scientists say” – Facts, fallacies and fanciful thinking.”

  1. I too was taken aback by the Australian article, partly for the reasons explained by Ove, but also because of the potential for government and public policy ramifications that can ensue from the ‘Scientists don’t agree – considerable uncertainty – no need to do anything’ kind.

    If / when there is strong empirical evidence to support the view re rapid adaptation, then no doubt the entire coral reef community and concerned citizens will breathe a little easier. However, there is considerable evidence from many places that corals do die en masse when temperatures rise by more than 2C above longer term averages for relatively short time periods (weeks), and climate models indicate that this is where we are headed in decades (not even considering the damaging effects of declining alkalinity).

    While the Great Barrier Reef is, in my opinion at least, one of earth’s more resilient reef systems, given the connectivity among 3000 or more reefs and the increasing protection, it is also one of the more vulnerable to climate change, sitting as it does atop a shallow continental shelf prone to heating, and with water exchange with the Coral sea to much of the GBR Lagoon reduced to greater or lesser degree by the reef tract itself.

    Certainly some corals and associated species will cope better than others – Porites rus springs to mind, but do we wish to see our reefs denuded of the great majority of their species diversity. I think not. Where exactly ‘shifts in coral abundance’ morph into ‘local extinction’ may become a moot point if we cannot, collectively, start to reduce our emissions. A precautionary approach would seem wisest.


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