7000-year-old corals of Moreton Bay tell their story

The 7000-year-old coral communities of Moreton Bay are telling a curious tale, expanding when sea-levels rise or water quality improves, then declining when current circulation becomes more restricted. Intriguing new insights into the behaviour of corals and fish under changing climatic conditions will be presented by leading marine researchers at a public forum in Brisbane … Continue reading 7000-year-old corals of Moreton Bay tell their story

“What will global warming look like? Scientists point to Australia”

http://video.latimes.com/global/video/flash/widgets/WNVideoCanvas.swf Los Angeles Times Online (April 9th 2008): They call Australia the Lucky Country, with good reason. Generations of hardy castoffs tamed the world’s driest inhabited continent, created a robust economy and cultivated an image of irresistibly resilient people who can’t be held down. Australia exports itself as a place of captivating landscapes, brilliant sunshine, … Continue reading “What will global warming look like? Scientists point to Australia”

Demise of newly discovered Australian deep water reefs, 4000m below the oceans of Tasmania

Using a submersible robot to penetrate depths of up to 4000m, a joint US-Australian team have reported some extraordinary organisms off the coast of Tasmania. “Our sampling documented the deepest known Australian fauna, including a bizarre carnivorous sea squirt, sea spiders and giant sponges, and previously unknown marine communities dominated by gooseneck barnacles and millions … Continue reading Demise of newly discovered Australian deep water reefs, 4000m below the oceans of Tasmania

Will we leave the Great Barrier Reef for our children?

Amidst the current policy debate in Australia on climate change is a surreal argument that policies that will destroy the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are acceptable and economically rational. Ross Garnaut was alive to the damage to the GBR when saying Australia should initially aim for a global consensus to stabilise greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 550 parts per million. Garnaut (2008a: 38) was brutally frank in his supplementary draft report:

“The 550 strategy would be expected to lead to the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs.”

His final report does not shy away from this conclusion (Garnaut 2008b).

The Australian and Queensland governments have always silently avoided this point when explaining the costs and benefits of their climate policies. Neither has ever stated a stabilisation target for the rise in global temperatures or greenhouse gases. To do so would expose them to the criticism that their policies will not save the GBR or a host of other ecosystems.

Garnaut’s frank admission reflects the findings of research of the impacts of climate change to the GBR since mass coral bleaching occurred globally in 1998 and 2002. Rising sea temperatures and increasing acidity of the oceans due to our use of fossil fuels are now well-recognized as major threats to coral reefs and the marine ecosystem generally in coming decades.

 Coral bleaching and partial recovery on Pelorus Island, GBR: (a) 1998; (b) 2002; and (c) 2004. Source: Schuttenberg H and Marshall P, A Reef Manager’s Guide to Coral Bleaching (GBRMPA, Townsville, 2006), p12.
Coral bleaching and partial recovery on Pelorus Island, GBR: (a) 1998; (b) 2002; and (c) 2004. Source: Schuttenberg H and Marshall P, A Reef Manager’s Guide to Coral Bleaching (GBRMPA, Townsville, 2006), p12.

In relation to coral bleaching the IPCC (2007b: 12) found that:

“Corals are vulnerable to thermal stress and have low adaptive capacity. Increases in sea surface temperature of about 1 to 3°C are projected to result in more frequent coral bleaching events and widespread mortality, unless there is thermal adaptation or acclimatisation by corals.”

The findings of the IPCC suggest that a rise of 1°C in mean global temperatures and, correspondingly, sea surface temperatures above pre-industrial levels is the maximum that should be aimed for if the global community wishes to protect coral reefs. The range of 1-3°C is the danger zone and 2°C is not safe. Supporting this conclusion Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and his colleagues concluded in a review of the likely impacts of climate change to the GBR edited by Johnson and Marshall (2007: 295):

“Successive studies of the potential impacts of thermal stress on coral reefs have supported the notion that coral dominated reefs are likely to largely disappear with a 2°C rise in sea temperature over the next 100 years. This, coupled with the additional vulnerability of coral reefs to high levels of acidification once the atmosphere reaches 500 parts per million [CO2], suggests that coral dominated reefs will be rare or non-existent in the near future.”

The IPCC’s (2007a: 826) best estimate of climate sensitivity found that stabilising greenhouse gases and aerosols at 350 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalents (ppm CO2-eq) would be expected to lead to a rise in mean global temperatures of 1°C, stabilising at 450 ppm CO2-eq will lead to a rise of 2°C, and stabilising at 550 ppm CO2-eq will lead to a rise of 3°C.

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Never Mind the Mohawk, Here’s the Mary River Turtle

Sorry for the bad pun… These great images were captured by photographer Chris van Wyk in Queensland, Australia (the green ‘mohawk’ effect, remniscent of the British subculture of the early 1980’s is actually an ephiphytic turf algae growing on the shell and head of the turtle). The Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus) is considered “endangered” … Continue reading Never Mind the Mohawk, Here’s the Mary River Turtle

“Carr targets PM on logging”

Sydney Morning Herald, 22nd September, 2008

THE fraught political battle over logging in native forests is set to be re-ignited with the former Labor premier Bob Carr writing to the Prime Minister and senior ministers arguing that protecting the forests is “fundamental” to fighting climate change.

In a letter to Mr Rudd, his Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, and the Forestry Minister, Tony Burke, Mr Carr has joined leading conservationists who want to transform state and federal forest policies in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania to protect older forests and previously logged forests.

Citing research from the Australian National University that says Australia’s eucalypt forests could hold about three times more carbon than previously thought, Mr Carr argues that rethinking forest policy is vital if Australia is going to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. Keeping carbon dioxide locked up, or “sequestrated”, in the forests will not only slow Australia’s rising greenhouse gas emissions but prevent the extinction of native plants and animals, the letter argues.

“Protecting our existing native forests and other vegetation is therefore fundamental to meeting any emissions reduction target. In addition, previously logged natural forests, if allowed to continue growing, will realise their carbon sequestration potential,” Mr Carr writes in a letter also signed by Peggy Figgis, the vice- chairwoman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and Rick Humphries, from Greening Australia.

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