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Reconnaissance to protect the Great Barrier Reef

Date: 23-Nov-17
Author: Billy Pringle

A mission is underway to research and save the Great Barrier Reef © ABC News

A mission is underway to research and save the Great Barrier Reef

A group of researchers including the ‘Godfather of Coral’ has launched a new study that aims to save the Great Barrier Reef from further damage.

Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Legacy is taking eight teams of scientists to map remote parts of the reef and test the health of corals. One of the goals of the mission is to find those corals that have survived recent devastating bleaching events. By studying these ‘super corals’, the researchers hope to prevent ongoing damage to the reef.

“This is a very important trip,” said Dr Charlie Veron, who earned the title of ‘Godfather’ after discovering of 20% of the world’s known species.

“We’re actually seeing for ourselves what corals are vulnerable to mass bleaching and what corals are surviving mass bleaching. So Once we know that, we’ll be able to make smart decisions about corals. It’s pivotal.”

Last week, the MY Flying Fish left Port Douglas and began its Journey. The ship is due to arrive at Horn Island on November 27, before returning by December 7. The team will chart the outermost reaches of the reef, heading as far as 200km offshore to do so.

“We’ve assembled an absolute crack team of scientists and researchers from all over Australia, so they can work on the same reef on the same day and answer their little part of the question” said GBR Legacy’s director of science Dean Miller.

This will be the first detailed assessment of the reef since before the last two years of major bleaching, and will involve the use of drones and remote controlled submarines.

Marine biologist Taylor Simpkins is working with the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, which has joined the voyage to study the algae which lives in corals and gives them their colour.

“This is what gives them most of their energy [and] a lot of their food through photosynthesis,” Ms Simpkins said.

“This algae can also end up poisoning the coral and causing it to bleach when the water temperature is really high so we want to look at that”. 

GBR Legacy is funding the mission with support from local tourism operators and environmentalist rock band Midnight Oil.

GBR Legacy director and former reef tour operator John Rumney said the past two years of of bleaching events have put him and others into depression, but while there is fear that this summer will see the third bleaching event in a row, there are also signs of hope.

“What we’re trying to do is preserve it so that it is as good as it can be into the future,” Mr Rumney said.

“It’s worth $7 billion a year and we are not doing enough to ensure its future.”

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Billy                                             Pringle
Author: Billy Pringle

Billy has completed a Masters in Discourse and Social Theory and is a frequent volunteer and supporter of Planet Ark.

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