Australia develops a 30-year plan to double its efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef from global warming, emphasizing strengthening water pollution measures and coastal development measures.
The Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the world's largest structure built by living organisms and is one of the world's most biodiverse areas.
The world's most extensive coral reef system is a significant tourism industry in Australia, creating more than 64,000 jobs for the state of Queensland and contributes $4.6 billion to the economy annually, the Australian government said.
The rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, and violent tropical weather have caused damage in the world's most extensive coral reef system. Outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish also threaten the coral reefs.
The Great Barrier Reef had massive bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 and earlier this year.
The draft notes that the bleaching this year was more prevalent than the 2016 and 2017 bleaching events. The report also cites that although major tourism areas were negligible to moderate bleaching this year, places in the Southern part of the Reef that was not affected in previous bleaching events were severely affected this year.
The corals are having a hard time recovering. A recent study suggests that two-thirds of the 86 reef structures had a slight increase in coral cover. Corals on the southern portion were also found to have recovered the most.
In response to the growing concerns of the reef, Australia's Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment proposed a 30-year plan to save the Great Barrier Reef.
Here are the highlights of the plan that we should know about:
- The plan is a revision of the 2015 proposal. The updated proposal now features a greater focus on climate change and its impact on the reef, taking into account the bleaching in 2015.
- The proposal, "Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan", suggests that climate change threatens the future of the Great Barrier Reef. Controlling greenhouse emissions is crucial, the department said.
- Major calls on the proposal are implementing measures to control surface run-off and shore-based pollution, including improved coastal infrastructure plans.
The proposal suggests that global warming and the climate change it drives is the most serious and pervasive threat to the reef and yet the proposal acknowledges that
- Australia can only do so little to limit or reverse global warming or increase of ocean temperatures.
- The Australian and Queensland government will allocate an amount of $2 billion for the next ten years for the initial phase of recovery protection and recovery efforts.
- Domestic efforts to decrease greenhouse emissions and convince other governments to do the same is included in the proposal.
- More stringent regulation of the land and water-based activities in and around the Reef and Aboriginal communities must be involved in Great Barrier Reef Management.
- Stricter regulations for tourism as a recent study indicate that there is an exponential rise in government permits issued for Great Barrier Reef operations since 2000.
- It is implementing measures to minimize pollution from coastal surface run-off. This would include reducing fertilizer and pesticide use for agriculture and ensuring the protection of coastal wetlands and mangroves.
- New measures are put in place to control water pollution from urban run-off and conduct more clean-up operations to remove marine plastic waste.
- Enact stricter enforcement against illegal fishing activity
- Greater protections for seagrass communities which is critical to the survival of endangered dugongs
- Allocate budget to control crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and invasive species spread
- Replace or replenish damaged corals
- Allocate resources to devise strategies on how the reef may adapt to higher ocean temperatures and global warming.
Comment on the new Great Barrier Reef protection plan is open to the public until September 30.
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