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Reef Report for Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Could Global Climate Change be Good for the Great Barrier Reef?

We are very concerned about the impact of global climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, but at least some recent scientific research indicates that news might not be all bad.

Research by Dr. Ben McNeil of the University of New South Wales is a bit of good news, with a cautionary note. Dr. McNeil and his group have been examining the growth rates of coral, whose growth literally and conceptually act as the foundation for ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef.

Dr. McNeil found that with increased temperature there are increased rates of the growth of the hard coral skeletons of these organisms. This was linked to both the increase in temperature and increase in carbonate in seawater, both predicted trends of global climate change caused by the drastic increase in fossil fuel use in the past 100 years. This was based on research on coral reefs worldwide not just on the Great Barrier Reef, which not only contains 20% of the worlds coral reefs, but is thought to be the healthiest and most protected large coral reef ecosystem in the world.

While more research is needed, as these results stand in opposition to earlier research, with some of the more pessimistic studies predicting large decreases in coral reef sizes worldwide over the next 50 years.

Other scientists reviewing this research point to the fact that it may be showing that climate change is not the main cause of declines in reef health worldwide, and that over fishing and the addition of nutrients into oceans from farming and sewage might have more of an effect on reef health than previously thought.

We urge our readers to live lightly on the planet, and to use fossil fuels wisely in their daily lives. From a global perspective, doing so is a part of maintaining our environmental health, with spin off benefits being your better physical and economic health. While you canít ride a bike to Australia to visit the Great Barrier Reef, you might be able to ride one to work, and enjoy the money you save on your visit to Australia!

More details on this Coral Reef research.

The opposite persepctive on the future of coral reef ecosystems.

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as† many other local sources in the dive community.

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