Great Barrier Reef

For thirty years the biggest factor affecting the Great Barrier Reef has been the increased sediment and fertiliser carried into reef waters by all the rivers flowing eastwards in far north Queensland. This sediment and fertiliser comes from pasture on land cleared for cattle.

Recent coral bleaching, exacerbated by climate change, is compounding the threats to the reef.

The AJP focus on plant based eating works like a swiss army knife in that it works on multiple environmental issues at the same time; in this case climate change and the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

As in other areas, AJP policies target major causes rather than easy targets of minor importance.

Related policies:

1. Marine animals

2. Climate change

Key Objectives

1. To phase out the cattle industry, starting with bans on further land clearing and the fertilisation of pasture; prioritising those regions closest to the most vulnerable parts of the reef.

2. To ban any new coal and natural gas operations; this is part of our general climate change policy.

3. Similarly, the phasing out of all fossil fuel production and export would see a reduction in bulk carriers passing through the reef.

4. To set clear enforceable regulations on any other industry likely to adversely affect the reef; for example sugar, which is also a sediment and fertiliser culprit.

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  • Phraed E
    commented 2018-11-22 15:23:51 +1100
    Coral Reefs

    Reefs have been around for a very long time. About 3,500 million years ago, calcareous organo-sedimentary reef-like structures called microbialites appeared. They are composed of calcium magnesium carbonates with the calcium, magnesium and carbon dioxide extracted from seawater. For the next 2,500 years, photosynthesising blue-green algae (stromatolites) produced shallow marine reefs. They still do (e.g. Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas Banks; Shark Bay, Western Australia). The history of the Earth shows us that stromatolite reefs thrive in warm times, especially when there is a high atmospheric carbon dioxide content.

    Coral reef communities started to appear about 600 million years ago and from about 600 to 540 million years ago, sponge-like animals (Archaeocyathids), stromatolites, calcareous cyanobacteria and algae were the main organisms in reef communities. From about 540 to 350 million years ago, reefs were dominated by complex communities of algae-sponge-coral associations. Some of the corals present in these assemblages are now extinct (e.g. rugosa).

    From about 350 to 220 million years ago, the reef assemblage became even more complex and was dominated by algae-bryzoan-coral communities with minor foraminifera, sponges stromatoporoids and rudist bivales. For the last 220 years, reefs comprised dominant scleractinian corals as the main reef builder and modern reefs represent the most complex and developed scleractinian in the history of the planet.

    Mass coral in modern coral reefs have been reported many times in all major reefs since the 1870s. In all cases the coral reels recovered.

    Coral bleaching and attacks by predators such as the crown of thorns starfish are not new and have happened money in the past. Just because a reef is bleaching or degrading it does not necessarily mean that climate change is to blame. Coral reefs have been around for 540 million years and are remarkably resilient. In the past, the big killer of coral reefs has been sea level fall, especially during periods of global cooling, In the past, coral reefs have expanded and thrived during periods of global warming.

    Water movements, tropical storms, sedimentation, salinity changes, temperature changes, El Nino events, emersion at low tide, changes in light intensity, volcanic ash falls, uplift, subsidence, earthquakes, phytoplankton blooms, predation, penetration of coral skeletons by organisms, competitive interactions for space and human interactions all kill reefs.

    Over the history of time, reefs have mainly died out because of sea level fall or coral-fringed islands and the continental shelf have risen above sea level. Seawater temperature change (especially cooling) and changes in salinity, dissolved oxygen and stability of dissolved chemicals may also kill reefs. Some reefs are killed by inundation by sediment as a result of flooding in the hinterland.

    In more modern times, the greatest threats to reefs have been tourists, fishing with cyanide and dynamite, mining of coral for roads, cement and construction, dredging, introduction of competing non-native species, runoff of sewage, nitrates and phosphates, and increased natural and anthropomorphic sedimentation rates.

    Populations of super corals that are found in New Caledonian mangrove systems are able to survive in hot, acidic, low oxygen waters. More than 20 species covering 35% of a lagoon were discovered. A new Wildlife Conservation Society study in the marine national parks of Kenya reveals evidence that some corals have adapted to the warmed oceans in the 1998 El Nino event warming ocean waters and that there is now less coral bleaching.

    An analysis of more than 600 coral reef islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans shows that some have remained (40%) or increased in size (40%). Only 20% have decreased in area yet it is widely promoted in environmental circles that coral islands, atolls and reefs are disappearing with sea level rise. Some islands grew as much as 5.6 hectares in a decade. Tuvulu’s main atoll, Funafuti, comprising 33 islands around the rim of a lagoon gained 32 hectares during the last 115 years.

    Contrary to popular disaster stories in the media and promoted by local politicians and green left environmentalist, the Pacific Ocean island atoll States are not disappearing due to sea level rise. They are getting larger. This is not new news. we have known for nearly 200 years that coral atolls increase in size with a relative sea level rise. Over the period from 12,000 to 6,000 years ago during the 130-metre post-glacial sea level rise, coral reefs have kept up with sea level rise. The coral sand atoll islands were actually produced by the destruction of reef material during the two-metre sea level fall since the Holocene Optimum. Corals don’t have a problem with sea level rise, can adapt to warmer seas and just grow faster. They die when sea level falls.

    In South Tarawa, Kiribati’s 15 square kilometre island capital, crowded with some 50,000 people, coral blocks are used for seawalls, causeways between islands and creating new land. This has led to greater storm erosion, changes in sedimentation patterns and more common inundation during surges. The real danger to coral reefs and atolls is sea level fall and human activity such as removal of coral sand for cement, building of roads and airstrips together with ground water extraction, blasting of reefs for shipping lanes and use of blocks or coral sand concrete for sea walls.

    In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, the poster child of the left environmental activists, disappeared during glacial events more than 60 times over the last three million years. It reappeared after every one of these events. The Great Barrier Reef first formed about 50 million years ago and has survived hundreds of coolings and warmings and massive rain events that deposit sediment on the Reef. It has survived hundreds of attacks by predators and events of bleaching.

    The sea level fall and lower temperature during glacial events kills higher latitude coral reefs and they continue to thrive at lower latitudes. The geological record shows that coral reefs love it warm, especially when there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. During glaciation events, tropical vegetation is reduced from rainforest to grasslands with copses of trees, somewhat similar to the modern dry tropics inland from the Great Barrier Reef.

    The Great Barrier Reef of Australia is 2,300 km in length comprising 3,000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands and 300 coral cays. It has over 600 species of soft and hard corals and a breathtaking range of other species. The reef has migrated eastwards and northwards and even disappeared when sea level dropped during glaciation. Sea level was 130 metres lower at the end of the last glaciation and the Great Barrier Reef did not exist at that time. There was no Amazonian rainforest during the last glaciation.

    It is claimed that bleaching of coral in the Great Barrier Reef is due to increased water temperatures driven by human emissions of carbon dioxide driving global warming. We all know that. But is it true? What if the sea level falls, as it does in El Nino events or with rising land levels such as coastal Queensland, expose coral to intense sunlight which bleaches coral. The Cairns tide gauge data shows that since 2010 the average low tide dropped by 10-15 cm. This means the land level is rising, sea level is falling or both. The widespread death of micro-atolls on the Great Barrier and high tide marks shows that over the last 5,500 years, the land level has risen at least two metres.

    We are told that the Great Barrier Reef is bleaching and we had better hurry up to see the Reef before it is totally destroyed. Coral reef expert Ove Hoegh-Guldberg told us in 1998 that the reef was under pressure from global warming and that the reef had turned white. In 1999, he warned that global warming would cause bleaching of the reef every two years from 2010. In 2006, he warned that global temperatures meant that:

    between 30 and 40 per cent of coral on Queensland’s
    Great Barrier Reef could die within a month.

    He later stated that there had been minimal amount of bleaching of the reef. He also stated that the reef had made a “surprising recovery”. The alleged recovery would only have been surprising for Hoegh-Guldberg if he believed his own exaggerations. Maybe the reef was not too damaged and maybe recovery is quite normal, as the scientific literature shows, scaring the community witless by spurious claims about the imminent death of the Great Barrier Reef puts bread on the table for many people.

    The Australian Institute of Marine Science showed that in a study of 47 reefs over 1,300 kilometres of the Great Barrier Reef, that the coral cover was stable and there had been no net decline since 1995. The ABC was telling us in 2002 that 10% of the Reef has been lost to bleaching since 1998. In order to persuade voters to support a “Carbon Tax”, Australia’s Prime Minister told voters that global warming is already killing the Great Barrier Reef. She did not tell us that it has survived warmer times in the past, that coral reefs in far lower latitudes seem to being thriving and that coral reefs come and go. Is the ABC operating as an environmental advocacy organisation in the absence of science? Why did Australia’s Prime Minister, with access to a great diversity of scientific advice, not tell the truth?

    The story of large long-lived corals is different from what we see on television. A 337-year record shows that there were wetter conditions and higher river flow into the Great Barrier Reef in the late 17th to mid 18th and in the late 19th century. Drier conditions were in the late 18th to early 19th and mid centuries. We are told that by emitting carbon dioxide, we humans are going to make the climate, wetter, drier, colder and warmer. Whatever the weather is, apparently it is our fault. The Great Barrier Reef shows that it was extremely resilient to wet and dry times since well before human industry was emitting carbon dioxide.

    In an analysis of the scientific data on the Great Barrier Reef it was shown that corals like it hot, that every now and then abnormally high sea surface temperature create carnage, corals have a biological juggle and have adapted to temperature variability and that there is very little QA/QC when it to coral reef research and the resultant extraordinary catastrophic claims.410 It is healthy for scientists to question the methodology and conclusions of their colleagues. However when sacred myths such as the health of the Great Barrier Reef are questioned, then host universities attempt to sack the questioner.

    For the last 3,500 million years, there have been reefs in shallow marine settings. Some rare isolated corals live in deep cooler waters today. The fact that reefs existed in previous times when it was warmer and the atmosphere had a higher carbon dioxide content, shows that modern coral reefs are in no danger if the atmosphere warms and the carbon dioxide content increases. In fact, it is the exact opposite. The history of time shows us that reefs, be they algal or coral, thrive when it is warmer and when there is a high atmospheric carbon dioxide content. For 3,500 million years, reefs died during cold times when sea level fell.

    Can the green left environmental activists provide the evidence as to why reefs die when it is warmer or there is a slight increase of an atmospheric trace gas.

    There is 3,500 million years of contrary evidence written in

    410 P. Ridd, 2017: The extraordinary resilience of the Great Barrier Reef corals and problems with policy science. In: Climate Change: The Facts 2017 (ed. J. Marohasy), IPA, 9-23.

    411 JCU Peter Ridd.