30 September 2005

Great Barrier Reef may need shade cloth to prevent coral bleaching

Metrer of shade cloth could cover our precious Great Barrier Reef in future to protect it from coral bleaching.

The major tourist asset may need to be shaded as a last resort to save the living corals off Townsville, a CRC Reef scientist has said.

CRC Reef research director Dr David Williams said experiments were being conducted with shade cloth at Agincourt Reef off Port Douglas.

And it is a desperate practical measure being taken to sustain the reef while other research into coral bleaching is undertaken.

The popular coral reef is one of many which has been damaged due to long, hot summers which have left stunning corals laid bare and bleached.

Dr Williams said tourist operators and government bodies may work together to combat the phenomenon which has the potential to cripple Queensland's tourist trade.

Dr Williams said CRC Reef and tourist dive operator Quick Silver was conducting the research off Port Douglas.

High water temperatures and sunlight are the major cause of bleaching.

"It may be possible for tourist operators to temporarily protect coral in hot periods," he said.

"This is a pilot experiment which has had some success.

"Having shade out for part of last season is helping the problem.

"It is an early stage thing but we hope it will make a difference in the short term.

"It may be possible we will do something similar here."

Dr Williams said large numbers of corals had died on the Great Barrier Reef and it was time to look for a practical and immediate response to the problem.

"We can also maximise all other factors on the reef such as improving water quality and managing fisheries.

"The reef has shown it can respond well if it is not dealing with multiple stresses."

Researchers will pay particular attention to the research happening in the North this year and will determine whether Kelso and John Brewer reefs off Townsville would benefit.

James Cook University researchers have been leading the way in the area with new remote sensing technology.

The instrument is the brainchild of JCU physics Professor Mal Heron and will allow researchers to predict the ocean's movements.

Prof Heron said half a million dollars had been given to the research team to conduct studies into coral bleaching.

"The HF radar will help us predict in the short term, and help us understand the processes better, that is, the physical parameters which drive the coral bleaching," he said.

Source: townsvillebulletin.news.com.au


Post a Comment

<< Home