Ningaloo Reef under the microscope

r147412_519770ABC News, 5th December 2008

Scientists who recently completed the most comprehensive study of the Great Barrier Reef are now turning their attention to Western Australia’s coast, focussing on Ningaloo Reef.

An Australian Institute of Marine Science study recently found the steepest drop in coral growth on the Great Barrier Reef in at least 400 years, which the Institute attributes to rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification.

The study found that on current trends coral on the Great Barrier Reef will stop growing by 2050.

The Institute’s Dr Janice Lough says scientists are now conducting a similar study on Ningaloo Reef, using coral cores to provide information about the growth of the reef, similar to the way tree rings are used to date trees.

“Some of these should contain records between about 50 to maybe 150 to 200 years, of coral growth at Ningaloo, so we’re really interested to see whether similar slowing of growth is likely to be evident in the West,” she said.

“As with people if you listen to one person they can tell you any old story, if you get a lot of people telling you the same story, or a lot of corals telling you the same story then we will believe what they’re saying, and corals don’t have any axe to grind, they are very objective about what they’re observing in the environment.”