Monday, December 26, 2016
Coral adaptability again
Easily able to cope with a bit of warming
Gene expression plasticity as a mechanism of coral adaptation to a variable environment
Carly D. Kenkel & Mikhail V. Matz
Local adaptation is ubiquitous, but the molecular mechanisms that give rise to this ecological phenomenon remain largely unknown. A year-long reciprocal transplant of mustard hill coral (Porites astreoides) between a highly environmentally variable inshore habitat and a more stable offshore habitat demonstrated that populations exhibit phenotypic signatures that are consistent with local adaptation. We characterized the genomic basis of this adaptation in both coral hosts and their intracellular symbionts (Symbiodinium sp.) using genome-wide gene expression profiling. Populations differed primarily in their capacity for plasticity: following transplantation to a novel environment, inshore-origin coral expression profiles became significantly more similar to the local population's profiles than those in offshore-origin corals. Furthermore, elevated plasticity of the environmental stress response expression was correlated with lower susceptibility to a natural summer bleaching event, suggesting that plasticity is adaptive in the inshore environment. Our results reveal a novel genomic mechanism of resilience to a variable environment, demonstrating that corals are capable of a more diverse molecular response to stress than previously thought.
Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, Article number: 0014 (2016).
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Greenie panic about Great Barrier Reef could harm tourism and agriculture
The Queensland and Federal Governments' reef 2050 progress report to UNESCO says land clearing is a significant challenge to future sustainability.
Scientists link land clearing to sediment runoff and poor water quality, and the report says it could put the reef on UNESCO's 'in danger' list.
Cynthia Sabag, who runs a tropical fruit farm halfway between Townsville and Cairns, said she is concerned about the health of the Great Barrier Reef, but does not think farming is to blame for its deterioration.
"It seems that agriculture has often been made the scapegoat in this debate," she said. "There was no evidence on our land that any of our farming was causing runoff, which would affect the Great Barrier Reef."
The State Government recently failed to pass laws to stop clearing, and now the Federal Government says it might intervene.
That would be a win for conservationists, but for Ms Sabag a return to more precarious times when she was not allowed to clear land for farming. "The way it was prior to the legislation, we had no hope whatsoever of ever selling our property and no hope of retiring, which is pretty demoralising," she said.
"This sort of has given us some hope, but we've lost 10 years of our life and 10 years of developing a property."
Agricultural industry body AgForce echoes Ms Sabag's concerns.
President Grant Maudsley said some politicians do not understand the challenges of managing rural properties. "It's easy on the left side of politics ... to point at the bush and say the bush is doing the wrong things," he said. "It's simply not the case."
"We would prefer to go down a policy outcome ... and have a little talk about things, but to keep pointing the finger consistently time and time again at one issue as being the problem is rubbish."
Mr Maudsley hopes the reef will not make UNESCO's 'in danger' list and disputes evidence that land clearing is the problem.
"What we're all looking for is reducing runoff, but you don't do that by having all trees and all grass, you have a combination of both," he said. "If you have a complete tree landscape, you actually end up with a really high density of trees, which actually reduces the cover on the ground and water actually runs off."
Mr Maudsley also points out other sectors, including mining, have a role to play in restoring health to the reef.
Conservationists agree and criticise the report's failure to make any substantial policy commitments to dealing with climate change.
Imogen Zethoven from the Australian Marine Conservation Society said reducing fossil fuels is a key part of that. "We really have to start taking some tough decisions, and one of them is that we really should not be opening up any new coal mines," Ms Zethoven said.
She is concerned about the proposed controversial Adani coal mine in the Galilee Basin, which has just secured a rail line, a temporary construction camp and is now seeking federal government funding. "[It's a] devastating mine that will really spell disaster for the reef," she said.
"We are also extremely concerned that the Federal Government appears to be using taxpayer money to fund this reef-destroying project."
"We know that there is a serious issue with jobs in north Queensland, but it's not about any old job, it's the right job.
"It's about jobs that are in industries that are the future, like renewable energy, jobs that are in the tourism sector, which is growing, that will be terribly hurt if this massive Adani coal mine goes ahead."
If the reef is placed on the 'in danger' list it could potentially lose its world heritage status and that could have devastating impacts on the tourism sector.
Daniel Gschwind from Queensland's Tourism Industry Council said it could deter visitors and undermine Australia's reputation as a tourist destination.
"The money they spend on the visits to the reef, to Queensland, to north Queensland amounts to between $5-6 billion every year," Mr Gschwind said.
"That money circulates through local communities, regional communities, on and on, and it employs and generates employment for about 50,000 Queenslanders."
He said UNESCO's assessment is putting the international spotlight on Australia, and the next few years could see it emerge as either the hero or the villain of environmental management.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Another shriek about bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef
This is just a repetition of a story that has been going on for a year or more. Previous claims of this nature have been shown to be highly exaggerated so a repetition of the claims from the same people as before has no credibility.
I was born and bred in an area close to the reef and have been hearing cries of alarm about the reef for 50 years. But somehow the reef still seems to be there. It has always had episodes of retreat but coral is highly resilient and bounces back quite rapidly.
One thing we can be sure of is that the problems were not caused by anthropogenic global warming. Why? Because that theory says that warming is caused by increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. But the latest readings show NO increase in CO2 during 2015 and 2016
There WAS warming up until recently but that was caused by the El Nino weather cycle, not CO2. Once again we had the chronic Warmist problem that CO2 levels and temperatures do not correlate. Below is a picture of the El Nino effect on global temperatures. You see it peaked late last year and has been falling ever since. So if warmth was the cause of the reef problems, the reef should soon start to recover
Two-thirds of the corals in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef have died in the reef’s worst-ever bleaching event, according to our latest underwater surveys.
On some reefs in the north, nearly all the corals have died. However the impact of bleaching eases as we move south, and reefs in the central and southern regions (around Cairns and Townsville and southwards) were much less affected, and are now recovering.
In 2015 and 2016, the hottest years on record, we have witnessed at first hand the threat posed by human-caused climate change to the world’s coral reefs.
Heat stress from record high summer temperatures damages the microscopic algae (zooxanthellae) that live in the tissues of corals, turning them white.
After they bleach, these stressed corals either slowly regain their zooxanthellae and colour as temperatures cool off, or else they die.
The Great Barrier Reef bleached severely for the first time in 1998, then in 2002, and now again in 2016. This year’s event was more extreme than the two previous mass bleachings.
Surveying the damage
We undertook extensive underwater surveys at the peak of bleaching in March and April, and again at the same sites in October and November. In the northern third of the Great Barrier Reef, we recorded an average (median) loss of 67% of coral cover on a large sample of 60 reefs.
The dieback of corals due to bleaching in just 8-9 months is the largest loss ever recorded for the Great Barrier Reef.
To put these losses in context, over the 27 years from 1985 to 2012, scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science measured the gradual loss of 51% of corals on the central and southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef.
They reported no change over this extended period in the amount of corals in the remote, northern region. Unfortunately, most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in this northern, most pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef.
The bleaching, and subsequent loss of corals, is very patchy. Our map shows clearly that coral death varies enormously from north to south along the 2,300km length of the Reef.
The southern third of the Reef did not experience severe heat stress in February and March. Consequently, only minor bleaching occurred, and we found no significant mortality in the south since then.
In the central section of the Reef, we measured widespread but moderate bleaching, which was comparably severe to the 1998 and 2002 events. On average, only 6% of coral cover was lost in the central region in 2016.
The remaining corals have now regained their vibrant colour. Many central reefs are in good condition, and they continue to recover from Severe Tropical Cyclones Hamish (in 2009) and Yasi (2011).
In the eastern Torres Strait and outermost ribbon reefs in the northernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, we found a large swathe of reefs that escaped the most severe bleaching and mortality, compared to elsewhere in the north. Nonetheless, 26% of the shallow-water corals died.
We suspect that these reefs were partially protected from heat stress by strong currents and upwelling of cooler water across the edge of the continental shelf that slopes steeply into the Coral Sea.
For visitors, these surveys show there are still many reefs throughout the Marine Park that have abundant living coral, particularly in popular tourism locations in the central and southern regions, such as the Whitsundays and Cairns.
The northern third of the Great Barrier Reef, extending 700km from Port Douglas to Papua New Guinea, experienced the most severe bleaching and subsequent loss of corals.
On 25% of the worst affected reefs (the top quartile), losses of corals ranged from 83-99%. When mortality is this high, it affects even tougher species that normally survive bleaching.
However, even in this region, there are some silver linings. Bleaching and mortality decline with depth, and some sites and reefs had much better than average survival. A few corals are still bleached or mottled, particularly in the north, but the vast majority of survivors have regained their colour.
What will happen next?
The reef science and management community will continue to gather data on the bleaching event as it slowly unfolds. The initial stage focused on mapping the footprint of the event, and now we are analysing how many bleached corals died or recovered over the past 8-9 months.
Over the coming months and for the next year or two we expect to see longer-term impacts on northern corals, including higher levels of disease, slower growth rates and lower rates of reproduction. The process of recovery in the north – the replacement of dead corals by new ones – will be slow, at least 10-15 years, as long as local conditions such as water quality remain conducive to recovery.
As global temperatures continue to climb, time will tell how much recovery in the north is possible before a fourth mass bleaching event occurs.
Monday, November 28, 2016
Australian anti-immigration politician slips into wetsuit for barrier reef trip -- and finds that all is well with the reef
Most of the media have been amusing about this. They say that she has embarrassed herself by not going to the "right" part of the reef. But that claim is itself a message that only part of the reef is affected by bleaching. We can perhaps be thankful to them for getting that message out to a wider audience.
There are many possible causes of bleaching but the loons of the Green/Left are sure it is caused by global warming. And that might pass muster when we note that the bleaching has occurred in the most Northerly (and hence warmer) one-third of the reef. Problem: Coral LIKES warmth, which is why the Northern part of the reef normally has the greatest biological diversity. Normally, the further North you go (i.e. the warmer you get), the greater the diversity. So the cause of the bleaching is unknown.
As a fallback position, the Greenies say that the bleaching is caused by agricultural runoff. Problem: The Northern part of the reef runs along an area of the Cape York Peninsula where there is virtually NO agriculture. The soils there are too poor for it to be economically feasible. So no runoff. "Facts be damned" seems to be the Greenie motto
Pauline Hanson has slipped into a wetsuit and made a splash on the Great Barrier Reef to show the world the natural wonder is worth visiting amid claims it is dying.
The senator, who once cooked fish for a living, went swimming off Great Keppel Island today and expressed concerns about reports on the reef's health.
Ms Hanson says agenda-driven groups are telling "untruths" about the state of the reef that are harming the tourism industry and businesses. "When we have these agendas that are actually destroying our tourism industry and businesses ... we need to ask the questions and we want answers," she said. "The Greens have no concern about people and jobs that we need here in Queensland, and the escalating costs that we are feeling from the effects of this."
One Nation senators Malcolm Roberts, who has long argued the case that global warming doesn't stack up, and Brian Burston were also on the reef trip.
Mr Roberts said people had stopped coming to the reef because they were being told it was dead and that Australia should not be reporting on its health to the UN agency UNESCO.
Conservationists are concerned climate change is putting severe stress on the reef, which experienced a massive coral bleaching event this year, and some have declared it's dying at an unprecedented rate.
They say Ms Hanson and her senators visited the wrong part of the reef as the southern sections had been least affected by the worst bleaching event in the icon's history.
The World Wildlife Fund said One Nation should have visited Lizard Island where bleaching, caused by high water temperatures, has killed much of the coral.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Why the death of coral reefs could be devastating for millions of humans
It certainly would be detrimental, though well within the human capacity to adapt. But will it happen? Coral recovers quickly from bleaching and at Bikini atoll it even survived a thermonuclear hit on it! If an H-bomb didn't kill it off, what would? Coral reefs have been around for millions of years and in some cases are today right where they always were.
They are however surrounded by Green/Left lies. Australian Greenies claim that reef damage is caused by agricultural runoff. Problem: The current bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef is on its Northern third, along the coast of the Cape York Peninsula -- and there are virtually no farms there. Isn't reality pesky?
Coral does undergo bleaching from time to time in response to various stressors but bleaching is a defence mechanism, not death.
And even the first sentence below is a laugh. Oceans CANNOT be both warmer and more acidic at the same time. Warmer oceans outgas CO2, which is the alleged cause of the acidity. Just open a warm can of Coke someday if you doubt it. Physicists call it Henry's law. There's no such thing as an honest Greenie as far as I can see. You believe anything they say at your peril
Coral reefs around the globe already are facing unprecedented damage due to warmer and more acidic oceans. It’s not a problem that just affects the marine life that depends on them or deep-sea divers who visit them.
If carbon dioxide emissions continue to fuel the planet’s rising temperature, the widespread loss of coral reefs by 2050 could have devastating consequences for tens of millions of people, according to research published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS.
To better understand where those losses would hit hardest, an international group of researchers mapped places where people most need reefs for their livelihoods, particularly for fishing and tourism, as well as for shoreline protection. They combined those maps with others showing where coral reefs are most under stress from warming seas and ocean acidification.
Countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Philippines would bear the brunt of the damage, the scientists found. So would coastal communities in western Mexico and parts of Australia, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. The problem would affect countries as massive as China and as small as the tiny island nation of Nauru in the South Pacific.
In many places, the loss of coral reefs would amount to an economic disaster, depriving fishermen of their main source of income, forcing people to find more expensive forms of protein, and undermining the tourism industry.
"It means jobs for lots of people," said Linwood Pendleton, the study’s lead author and an international chair at the European Institute of Marine Studies.
In addition, many countries depend on coral reefs as a key barrier to guard against incoming storms and mitigate the damage done by surging seas. Without healthy reefs, "you lose what is essentially a moving, undersea sea wall," said Pendleton, who estimated that about 62 million people live less than 33 feet above sea level and less than two miles from a coral reef. "The waves just come into shore full force. That can cause loss of life. It can cause loss of property."
Some of the countries most dependent on coral reefs are also among the largest polluters.
"Some of the places that have the most to lose . . . are also among the biggest carbon emitters," Pendleton said. "They really have it in their power to bring down the levels of carbon" they emit into the atmosphere.
Other countries that rely heavily on reefs, such as Fiji or Papua New Guinea, have relatively small carbon footprints. Still, Pendleton said they can take other measures — including not overfishing and avoiding pollution — to prevent putting further pressure on already stressed reefs.
The researchers acknowledged more study is needed to better understand both what is happening to coral reefs around the globe and how that will affect humans. But it can be difficult, they noted, because "carrying out science and data collection in many of the coral reef regions most at risk of global environmental change is a challenge." Many regions lack the capacity to do routine data collection, and scientists often have trouble getting permission to sample in coastal areas or where maritime jurisdictions are disputed.
While coral reefs traditionally have been resilient in the face of environmental pressures, mounting evidence suggests their ability to bounce back is limited.
This fall, scientists reported that substantial swaths of the Great Barrier Reef — the world’s largest coral reef system, located off Australia —might have died in the wake of a historic coral-bleaching event.
"The mortality is really devastating," Andrew Hoey, a senior research fellow with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland, told the Post last month as scientists worked to catalog the damage. "It’s a lot higher than we had hoped."
Earlier This spring, researchers discovered that parts of Florida’s coral reef tract — the largest reef in the continental United States and the third-largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world — are actually dissolving into the water, likely because of the effects of ocean acidification.
Meanwhile, reefs around the US territory of Guam and other nearby islands, in what is known as the Marianas archipelago, have suffered from coral-bleaching events every year since 2013.
And there’s been no sign of a break this summer. After a recent dive in Guam’s Tumon Bay, coral ecologist Laurie Raymundo took to Facebook to describe her shock at the devastation.
"I consider myself to be fairly objective and logical about science," wrote Raymundo, of the University of Guam. "But sometimes that approach fails me. Today, for the first time in the 50 years I’ve been in the water, I cried for an hour, right into my mask, as I witnessed the extent to which our lovely Tumon Bay corals were bleaching and dying."
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Australia: New photos show worst coral bleaching to date: A third of the Great Barrier Reef is affected
You can of course prove anything with photos. The previous reports from this lot were found to be vastly exaggerated so this report should also be taken with a large grain of salt. Reading between the lines, I gather that most of the reef has already recovered from the earlier bleaching but the recovery has been uneven so far.
More corals are dying and others are succumbing to disease and predators after the worst-ever bleaching on Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef.
A swathe of corals bleached in the northern third of the 1,429-mile (2,300-kilometre) long biodiverse site off the Queensland state coast died after an unprecedented bleaching earlier this year as sea temperatures rose.
And researchers who returned to the region to survey the area this month said 'many more have died more slowly'.
On the surface, coral bleaching looks like white, bleached-out coral reefs - quite a departure from the usual colourful structures.
Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour.
Andrew Hoey, from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said: 'In March, we measured a lot of heavily bleached branching corals that were still alive, but we didn't see many survivors this week.
'On top of that, snails that eat live coral are congregating on the survivors, and the weakened corals are more prone to disease. 'A lot of the survivors are in poor shape.'
Greg Torda, whose team recently returned from re-surveying reefs near Lizard Island, said the amount of live coral covering the island fell from about 40 per cent in March to under five per cent.
It is the third time in 18 years that the World Heritage-listed site, which teems with marine life, has experienced mass bleaching after previous events in 1998 and 2002.
The researchers said even though they were still assessing the final death toll from bleaching in the north, 'it is already clear that this event was much more severe than the two previous bleachings'. They expect to complete all their surveys by mid-November.
Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour
The reef's northern 700-kilometre section bore the brunt of the breaching during March and April, with the southern areas 'only lightly bleached and remain in good condition'
The reef's northern 700-kilometre section bore the brunt of the breaching during March and April, with the southern areas 'only lightly bleached and remain in good condition'
The reef's northern 435-mile (700-kilometre) section bore the brunt of the breaching during March and April, with the southern areas 'only lightly bleached and remain in good condition', the scientists added.
'As we expected from the geographic pattern of bleaching, the reefs further south are in much better shape,' said Andrew Baird, who led the re-surveys of reefs in the central section.
'There is still close to 40 per cent coral cover at most reefs in the central Great Barrier Reef, and the corals that were moderately bleached last summer have nearly all regained their normal colour.'
The reef is already under pressure from farming run-off, development, the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish as well as the impacts of climate change, with a government report last week painting a bleak picture of the natural wonder.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
No, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is NOT dead. But it is in trouble
The writer makes only a small obeisance to Warmism below. He says that the ocean is warming overall. He does not mention that such warming is only in hundredths of a degree
Perhaps you’ve heard that the epic, 1,400-mile-long Great Barrier Reef in Australia has died.
Perhaps you have read its obituary by writer Rowan Jacobsen on the website Outside Online.
But before you start mourning the loss of what Jacobsen calls "one of the most spectacular features on the planet," the community of scientists that study coral reefs in the Pacific ocean would like you to hold up, slow down, and take a deep breath.
The news isn’t good, but it may not be as dire as the obituary may have you believe.
"For those of us in the business of studying and understanding what coral resilience means, the article very much misses the mark," said Kim Cobb, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. "It’s not too late for the Great Barrier Reef, and people who think that have a really profound misconception about what we know and don’t know about coral resilience."
Cobb spoke to the LA Times about the state of the world’s largest reef system, and why there is reason for both concern and hope.
It’s not too late for the Great Barrier Reef, and people who think that have a really profound misconception about what we know ... about coral resilience. — Kim Cobb
Is the Great Barrier Reef dead? No. It’s not. We just had a massive bleaching event, but we know from past research that corals are able to recover from the brink of death.
So bleached corals aren’t dead corals? That’s right. There’s lots of confusion about what bleaching means.
Coral is an animal, and the animal exists in symbiosis with photosynthetic algae. The algae provides food for the coral in exchange for a great home. But when the water gets too warm, the algae become chemically destructive to the coral.
When that happens, the coral convulses and spits out puffs of algae to protect itself. That removes all the color from the coral tissue which is transparent, allowing you to see right through to the underlying skeleton. So you are not necessarily seeing dead coral, you’re really just seeing clear coral without its algae.
But bleaching is still bad, right?
Bleaching events are worrisome because if the coral misses this key food source from the algae for too long it will literally starve to death. But, if the water temperature comes back down, it will welcome the algae back. The key is that the water temperature change has to be relatively quick.
When was the massive bleaching event?
It started with the Hawaiian islands bleaching in the early part of 2015 due to a moderate El Nino event in 2014-2015. After that there was the build up to the massive El Nino that culminated in the warmest ocean waters during the November 2015 time frame.
Unfortunately, these warm waters didn’t release their grip on many of the Pacific reefs until the spring of 2016, so that’s nine months of pretty consistently high temperatures. That is a long time for a coral to be in a mode of starvation.
Has the Great Barrier Reef been through anything like this before?
It has had very severe bleaching events associated with large El Ninos like we had last year, but the problem is we are seeing baseline ocean temperatures getting warmer every year. When you pile a strong El Nino on top of this ever warming trend, you get more extreme and more prolonged bleaching episodes.
What was striking about this year was the extent of the damage. It was staggering. By important metrics the ’97-’98 El Nino was bigger, but the damage from this last one was far more extensive.
So how can you remain hopeful about the fate of Great Barrier Reef and other reefs in the Pacific?
I work on a research site in the Christmas Islands that is literally smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and which was much more devastated than the Great Barrier Reef. It was worse off than any reef in the world with up to 85% mortality. But even in the face of that whole-scale destruction, we saw individual corals that were still alive, looking like nothing had happened.
I cling to that. I know from my own site that there is a lot more resilience baked into the system then we can hope to understand right now and that out of the rubble will come a reef that may not look exactly like it looked before, but may be better adapted for future temperature change
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Can the Great Barrier Reef be saved? Uproar as writer claims world’s largest living structure is DEAD
We went through all this a few months ago. The galoots below are just catching up. To summarize: The tourism operators in Far North Queensland -- who go to the reef daily -- were all amazed to hear this guff. The reef does undergo bleaching (which in NOT "death") from time to time but not all parts are affected. So they did their own survey and found that only a relatively small part of the reef was bleached at the time: A MUCH smaller part than what the Greenies claim.
They have NO difficulty in finding parts of the reef where they can take their tourist boats and show visitors the reef in all its glory. The main departure point for the reef is the city of Cairns and the tourism industry there at the moment is booming.
The Greenie claim is that agricultural runoff is killing the reef but the main area of coral bleaching at the moment is parallel with the Northern half on Cape York peninsula, where there are essentially NO farms -- So it's ideology, not reality speaking
The Great Barrier Reef was once a scene of thriving coral, but one environmental writer has claimed it is now beyond help.
'The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old,' wrote Rowan Jacobsen in Outside magazine.
Recent pictures show many parts of the reef appear full of swampy algae, brown sludge and rubble, and it is estimated 93 per cent of Great Barrier Reef has been affected by bleaching, which can kill corals.
In his 'obituary', Jacobson wrote 'The Great Barrier Reef was predeceased by the South Pacific’s Coral Triangle, the Florida Reef off the Florida Keys, and most other coral reefs on earth.
'It is survived by the remnants of the Belize Barrier Reef and some deepwater corals.'
However, a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority report released this week said its preliminary findings show 22 per cent of coral on the Reef died due to the worst mass bleaching event on record.
However, that's not to say the remaining coral is not in dire trouble.
A destructive bleaching process has already affected about 93 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef as of April this year, according to scientists at James Cook University.
The latest before and after shots of the devastating effect of coral loss in the tropical far north Queensland in recent years.
With the December 1 deadline looming, Australia must report to the UNESCO to demonstrate an investment strategy to save the Reef.
WWF-Australia spokesman Sean Hoobin said while there was no scientific study on what killed coral in this specific area, the pictures were indicative of what was happening along the Reef's coast.
'Inshore reefs along the coast are deteriorating and studies say sediment, fertiliser and pesticide run off are taking a toll on coral,' Mr Hoobin said.
An independent report estimated it would cost $8.2 billion to achieve most of the water quality targets for the Reef that governments have committed to deliver by 2025.
'Stopping water pollution will help restore the beautiful coral gardens choked by runoff. This image drives home what a big job we face,' Mr Hoobin said.
'Australia must commit the $8.2 billion as a national priority to protect the Reef and the tourism jobs that rely on it.
This comes as coral samples dating back thousands of years show evidence of the human impact on the Reef, researchers have claimed.
University of Queensland Professor Gregg Webb said coral 'cores' taken from along the Queensland coastline showed definable difference in trace element chemistry, including those linked to European arrival in Australia.
'We can look at ancient events where they're been stressed by bad water, high nutrients, but also just sediment load and see what killed them, what was sub-lethal, how common events are, and just get an idea of what the reef can handle,' he said
Sunday, September 11, 2016
New amazing discovery: Warming is GOOD for coral
I have been pointing that out for years
Coral reefs on the Great Barrier Reef grow better in the summer and in northern areas, a major ocean chemistry monitoring project has found.
The Future Reef 2.0 project is helping to identify which parts of the reef are most vulnerable to ocean acidification change and has just been extended for another three years.
CSIRO scientists have been running an advanced sensor system from a Rio Tinto vessel as part of the research, which also involves the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
CSIRO ocean carbon research scientist Dr Bronte Tilbrook said the research has found ocean chemistry remains positive for coral growth.
Dr Tilbrook said it had also found there were strong seasonal changes, with the best coral growing conditions in summer.
Conditions were also better in the outer regions of the reef and there was more coral growth in the northern parts, he said.
Specifically, the project has been examining how the entire reef is responding to ocean acidification, bleaching and cyclones.
"The data is going to help us understand how the reef is growing and how it's responding to certain stresses," he told AAP.
"We need to get the big picture and that's the thing the ship is allowing us to do."
Friday, August 26, 2016
Lying Greenie alarmists found out: Reef tourism operators find less than five per cent of coral dead under ‘extreme’ bleaching
REEF tourism operators have found less than five per cent of coral has died off — compared to the 50 to 60 per cent estimated by scientists — under "extreme" mass coral bleaching on the northern Great Barrier Reef.
Latest findings exclusively obtained by The Courier-Mail show coral mortality in the outer shelf reefs north of Lizard Island was between one and five per cent with "spectacular" fish life and coral coverage.
Teams of divers in a joint two-week expedition sponsored by Mike Ball Dive and Spirit of Freedom surveyed 28 sites on 24 outer shelf reefs along a 300km section of the hardest-hit part of the reef from Bathurst Head to Raine Island.
Spirit of Freedom owner Chris Eade said reports of 93 per cent bleaching on the 2300km long Great Barrier Reef had made global headlines and damaged the reputation of the $5 billion reef tourism industry.
"Scientists had written off that entire northern section as a complete white-out," Mr Eade said. "We expected the worst. But it is tremendous condition, most of it is pristine, the rest is in full recovery. "It shows the resilience of the reef."
Mike Ball Dive Expeditions operations manager Craig Stephen, who conducted a similar survey on the remote reefs 20 years ago, said there had been almost no change in two decades despite the latest coral bleaching event.
"It wasn’t until we got underwater that we could get a true picture of what percentage of reef was bleached," Mr Stephen said. "The discrepancy is phenomenal. It is so wrong. Everywhere we have been we have found healthy reefs. "There has been a great disservice to the Great Barrier Reef and tourism and it has not been good for our industry."
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority estimated a mass coral white-out of between 50 to 60 per cent, on average, for reefs off Cape York under the world’s biggest-ever mass coral bleaching event.
Scientists with the Townsville-based ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies reported about 35 per cent mortality but warned "the final death toll" on some reefs may exceed 90 per cent.
In April, aerial and underwater surveys of 522 reefs in the northern sector showed 81 per cent had been severely bleached and one per cent not bleached.
Professor Terry Hughes, convener of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, at the time said "it’s like 10 cyclones have come ashore all at once."
Professor Hughes yesterday welcomed the positive news but had not yet seen the latest survey findings. "We won’t know the true coral mortality until we can get back up there in October and compare before and after impacts from our March survey," Prof Hughes said.
"Those coral will either survive or more will die."
A GBRMPA spokeswoman said they would closely examine the findings of the first independent expedition into the isolated region. "Obviously if they’ve found reefs with a lower than expected mortality rate that is fabulous news," she said.
"Our initial findings noted that the level of bleaching and mortality was expected to be very variable across the entire reef system."
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Rising sea levels caused by global warming could be GOOD news for coral reefs
It all depends on your modelling
Global warming could do at least as much to protect the world’s coral reefs as it will to damage them, new research from Australia suggests.
Climate change has long been believed to be disastrous for the fragile marine environments, but fresh modelling has predicted that oceanic changes caused by the phenomenon will also work to the reefs’ advantage.
Rising sea levels, caused by melting polar ice caps, could help moderate the extreme and often damaging conditions found in many reef habitats, according to scientists at the University of Western Australia.
By studying reef systems off the coast of north-western Australia, they showed how rapid sea level rise could substantially reduce the volatile daily extremes of water temperatures in the shallow reef habitats over the next century.
The resulting changes, they say, may potentially ameliorate the other effects of global ocean warming.
Mounting levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are predicted to cause substantial changes to ocean temperature over the next 100 years, increasing the frequency and severity of mass bleaching, where corals expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, turning them completely white.
In April scientists announced that 93 per cent of the famous 1,500 mile Great Barrier Reef, on Australia’s East Coast, had now been bleached as a result of an underwater heatwave caused by global warming.
The situation caused some scientists to urge the Australian government to decide which parts of the reef it wanted to save.
Reefs in the Caribbean and in other regions such as the Maldives have also been badly affected by bleaching.
Warming seas are part of a "triple punch" said to be hitting coral reefs as a result of global warming, along with ocean acidification, which makes it more difficult for corals to build and maintain their skeletons, and more frequent and powerful reef-wrecking storms.
The new research by Professor Ryan Lowe and his team is the first to attempt to predict in detail the positive effects rising surface levels on reef environments.
Temperatures within shallow reefs often differ substantially from the surrounding ocean, so predicting future patterns of bleaching and other stresses is difficult.
However, recent science has focused on trying to improve predictions of regional ocean warming patterns driven by long-term climate change, as well as by the intensification of short-term climate patterns such as El Nino.
Using a collection of detailed field measurements, Prof Lowe and his team developed a modelling framework for predicting how local temperature extremes in shallow reefs will change in the future as a result of rising sea levels.
They found that even a modest sea level rise could substantially reduce local reef water temperatures in the future, meaning the change may partially contribute to limiting reef heat extremes in an overall warming ocean.
Despite the international carbon emissions caps agreed at the Paris climate talks last year, atmospheric warming is still expected to rise to between 2.7 and 3C above pre-industrial levels, breaching the 2C threshold beyond which many scientists say heatwaves and significant sea level rises are inevitable.
In 2015 the United Nations World Heritage Committee agreed not to list the Great Barrier Reef as an "in danger" site, providing Australia reports back to the committee in December this year with an adequate account of what is being done to preserve the reef.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
Greenie moans about the Barrier Reef are putting tourists off -- NOT
As with the boy who cried wolf, most people probably discount the incessant Greenie moans
FAR North tourism operators are flat strap as cashed-up visitors take advantage of easy access to Tropical Queensland.
Data released by Cairns Airport this week shows about 43,000 passengers travelled through the international terminal last month, marking a 13.3 per cent rise from June last year.
Domestic passengers last month topped 335,600, about 14,400 more than the previous June.
According to the data, European passports used when clearing immigration at Cairns Airport have exceeded 68,600 over the past 12 months, a growth of 75 per cent.
A record number of international competitors also contested the 2016 Cairns Ironman in June.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland director of business and tourism events, Rosie Douglas, said the June growth continued to reflect the trends being experienced by the region’s industry.
"The addition of direct flights from Hong Kong and the Philippines has given greater access to the Asian and European markets, which also have been using the direct flights from Singapore," she said.
"This increase in aviation capacity from Asia was instrumental in Cairns winning the right to host the prestigious Ironman Asia-Pacific, the feature event of the Cairns Airport Adventure Festival during June.
"June also marks the start of the school holidays for the United Kingdom, Northern Europe and Australia, bringing stronger numbers from those markets."
Cairns Airport last month celebrated a milestone five million passengers for the year, with the total number now having reached about 5,011,000.
The influx of international and domestic visitors is being felt throughout the Far North.
Skyrail general manager Craig Pocock said the tourism heavyweight was experiencing "pre-global financial crisis" numbers.
"We’ve certainly seen strong growth across all markets," he said. "This season we’ve also been strong both before and after the school break, and now we’re benefiting from the Japanese holiday period.
"This is a bright and optimistic period we’re experiencing, and bookings indicate that it will continue for some time."
Mr Pocock said Skyrail was having to "ramp up" its operations to cater for the ongoing growth.
"We’ve had to increase resources, staffing and modify the way we operate to cater for the volume of visitors," he said.
Friday, July 1, 2016
Greenie scare fails
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef named the best place in the world to visit. Throughout the bleaching scare, touriswm operators have never had any difficulty taking people to unspoiled areas of the reef
IN a much-needed boost for the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest living organism has been voted the best place in the world to visit by an influential US travel site.
US News and World Report’s World’s Best Places to Visit for 2016-17 ranked the Reef No.1 ahead of Paris and Bora Bora in French Polynesia. Sydney also made the list — at 13th.
The site described the Reef as “holding a spot on every travellers’ bucket list”.
“The Great Barrier Reef is a treasure trove of once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” said the description. “Whether you’re gazing at marine life through a scuba mask, letting the tropical breeze unfurl your sail, or in a plane gliding high above it all, the possibilities for exploration are nearly limitless.”
It comes after a series of sinister reports about the Reef’s future following a major coral bleaching event found to have affected extensive areas.
Tourism and Events Queensland CEO Leanne Coddington said the Reef’s first placing on the list, was a vote of confidence in its worldwide tourism appeal.
“The Great Barrier Reef is a living treasure and a major tourism drawcard for visitors to Queensland,” Ms Coddington said. “It is an unrivalled experience that tens of thousands of people are enjoying every day.”
Other destinations to make the top ten included Florence in Italy; Tokyo, Japan; the archealogocial capital of the Americas — Cusco in Peru; London, Rome, New York and Maui.
Cape Town in South Africa and Barcelona in Spain finished ahead of Sydney, the only other Australian location on the list.
“Expert opinions, user votes and current trends” were used to compile this list.
Last year London was No.1, Bora Bora No.2 and Barcelona third — while Sydney was placed fifth.
Ms Coddington said this year’s result reaffirmed just how important the Reef was to Australia’s tourism economy. “It’s ours to protect and share,” she said. “Experiences like the Great Barrier Reef help inspire visitors to experience Queensland, the best address on earth.”
Monday, June 27, 2016
Grant-hungry scientists stage a tantrum about the Barrier Reef while on their holiday in Hawaii
Many causes of bleaching alleged but not a word about El Nino, the most probable cause. These guys are just con-men. Document probably written by a small but powerful clique only
As the largest international gathering of coral reef experts comes to a close, scientists have sent a letter to Australian officials calling for action to save the world's reefs, which are being rapidly damaged.
The letter was sent on Saturday to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull imploring the government to do more to conserve the nation's reefs and curb fossil fuel consumption.
The letter, signed by past and present presidents of the International Society for Reef Studies on behalf of the 2000 attendees of the International Coral Reef Symposium that was held in Honolulu this week, urged the Australian government to prioritise its Great Barrier Reef.
"This year has seen the worst mass bleaching in history, threatening many coral reefs around the world including the whole of the northern Great Barrier Reef, the biggest and best-known of all reefs," the letter said.
"The damage to this Australian icon has already been devastating. In addition to damage from greenhouse gases, port dredging and shipping of fossil fuels across the Great Barrier Reef contravene Australia's responsibilities for stewardship of the Reef under the World Heritage Convention."
Scientists are not known for their political activism, said James Cook University professor Terry Hughes, but they felt this crisis warranted such action.
A call to action from three Pacific island nations whose reefs are in the crosshairs of the largest and longest-lasting coral bleaching event in recorded history was presented on Friday at the conclusion of the symposium in Honolulu.
The heads of state from Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands attended the conference and will provide a plan to help save their ailing coral reefs.
The call to action, signed by the three presidents, asked for better collaboration between the scientific community and local governments, saying there needs to be more funding and a strengthened commitment to protecting the reefs.
In response to the letter, the scientific community at the conference said they would work with national leaders of Micronesia, the Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the world "to curb the continued loss of coral reefs."
Bleaching is a process where corals, stressed by hot ocean waters and other environmental changes, lose their colour as the symbiotic algae that lives within them is released. Severe or concurrent years of bleaching can kill coral reefs, as has been documented over the past two years in oceans around the world. Scientists expect a third year of bleaching to last through the end of 2016.
In the northern third of the Great Barrier Reef, close to half of the corals have died in the past three months, said Hughes, who focuses his research there.
But the panel of scientists emphasised the progress they have made over the past 30 years and stressed that good research and management programs for coral reefs are available. The scientists said they just need the proper funding and political will to enact them.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Great Barrier Reef: Qld Government's cattle station purchase 'makes agriculture sector scapegoat'
Let's be clear: This is NOT agricultural runoff being discussed. It is pastoral runoff. A cattle station and an arable farm are not the same. There are virtually no arable farms in the Northern half of Cape York peninsula and yet that is where coral bleaching is greatest -- providing an excellent natural experiment that proves Greenie claims about agricultural runoff to be false.
Pastoral runoff may however be a different thing. The property discussed below does appear to have been badly managed, if managed at all. Producing anything in such a remote area must encounter a lot of high costs so cutting costs on management might be expected. In the circumstances, the steps being taken by the Queensland government are well-advised.
There is however no reason why one property must be taken as proving a generality. For all we know, there may be no other pastoral properties in the far North that are producing massive runoff. No-one has made that case -- Greenie hand-waving aside
The agricultural sector says it is being unfairly targeted by the Queensland Government after it purchased a cattle station to reduce sediment flowing into the Great Barrier Reef.
Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles announced on Wednesday the Government had bought Springvale Station in the state's north for $7 million.
Mr Miles said the reason for the purchase was to stem the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sediment pollution flowing from the property into the Great Barrier Reef each year.
Generations of cattle grazing has caused massive gullies, etched deep into Springvale Station's 56,000 hectares.
These gullies carry 500,000 tonnes of sediment per year into the Normanby catchment, explained Australian Rivers Institute's Dr Andrew Brooks.
"The Normanby catchment represents about 50 per cent of the total run off to the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef," Dr Brooks told PM.
Because of this Dr Brooks supported the Queensland Government's purchase, as well as plans to rehabilitate the land and prevent further sediment from damaging the reef.
"The relationship between sediment run off and impact on coral has been well established," he said.
"What we know is that these volumes of sediment coming from this property, just to put it in perspective, that's 50,000 tipper trucks worth of sediment. "These gullies don't just deliver sediment. They also deliver nutrients. So per unit area these gullies are contributing twice the level of nutrients as a cane paddock in the wet tropics."
Mr Miles said smoothing out the gullies and replanting grass will begin as soon as possible but it is too early to tell how long the whole remediation process will take.
In the meantime, former station owners have until late next year to remove the several thousand head of cattle from the land.
While a loud chorus has praised the Queensland Government's purchase as a major step forward in remediation of the Great Barrier Reef, the agricultural sector has some reservations about the $7 million sale.
Reef Alliance chair Ruth Wade said the Queensland Government needed to ensure other industries near the reef also pull their weight. "There are areas like mines, ports, tourism, a number of areas where there are impacts of varying points," Ms Wade said. "The obvious and easy one is the impact agriculture has in terms of sediment run off.
"We're working very hard through a number of schemes funded by Federal and State Governments to improve water quality and minimise impacts of agriculture."
But Mr Miles insisted that while all industries have a role to play in reef protection, the Government was targeting agriculture for the right reasons. "We know that a clear driver of problems for the reef is run off pollution and a great deal is cause by agricultural land," he said.
"If we can substantially reduce the amount of sediment run off from just this one property we can move ourselves forward toward the targets we have set for the entire catchment and that's a huge opportunity."
Agforce Queensland general president Graham Mosley is concerned the Government will not follow through on proper land management of the station. "It's a challenge. There's services associated with servicing that property ... ongoing maintenance," Mr Mosley said.
"What is the long-term plan here for acquisition of land in Queensland? Government needs to be clear of the path its embarking on when spending taxpayer money.
Mr Miles concedes the land management details have not yet been determined, while not ruling out a partnership with graziers. "In terms of the ongoing wider management, beyond the rivers and gullies and streams, that's where we're interested in working with partners to determine the best way to manage it going forward," he said.
"The idea is those areas which are currently grazed could well continue to be so under some kind of partnership arrangement, while those areas that are pristine could be protected as National Park, or nature refuges, while we get about the important work of repairing the riparian zones."
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Going Out With A Bang: Could Algal Sex Save The Reef?
It’s no secret that the domestic situation between corals and the algae that live inside has become a little heated in recent months, but scientists may have found a way to get that steamy relationship get back on track.
First, a bit of background: The mass coral bleaching that has savaged the Great Barrier Reef over recent months occurred because of unusually warm ocean temperatures, driven by climate change and an El Nino weather system.
The bleaching starts when corals expel a type of algae that normally lives inside them, and gives them their colour. When the water becomes too warm, the algae gets all hot under the collar, and starts producing toxins that damage the corals.
That’s why the algae get turfed out. But the algae are the coral’s main source of food, so they starve, get bleached white, and are eventually overrun by a different kind of algae.
Clearly, it’s a marriage in crisis – which is why scientists have mounted an intervention.
New research published in the Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution has revealed that the water of the Coral Sea isn’t the only thing that has been getting hot of late.
The algae appear to have responded to the conditions by starting to reproduce sexually, instead of asexually, and it turns out this promiscuity could help save the corals’ relationship with their special algae friends too.
The difference is that when the algae produce asexually they produce a more-or-less identical copy of themselves. If they produce sexually, different algae’s genetic codes get spliced together, which produces new variants of algae.
The algae that can stand the heat are less likely to get all toxic, and therefore less likely to be sent to the dog-house by the corals, which are in turn less likely to bleach. It’s a raunchy sort of survival of the fittest.
Professor Madeleine van Oppen, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, was one of the scientists involved in the study. She said the findings are "critical in terms of developing more climate-resilient algae and corals".
The algae’s sexual reproduction was only a small part of the study. The main finding was that some algae use a mechanism to switch on genes which produce special proteins in order to protect themselves from heat exposure and mop up some of the toxic chemicals that poison their symbiotic relationship with the coral.
The sexual reproduction is important, though, because it speeds up evolution and might allow the algae to adapt quickly enough to tolerate the rise in sea temperatures.
It’s a bit of good news in a sea of bad, for those of us rooting for the Great Barrier Reef.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching could cost $1b in lost tourism, research suggests
This is research about what people have been told, not research about the reef or actual tourist numbers. Far from tourism dying off amid the present state of the reef, we read:
It comes as tourism booms in the region with Cairns leading the growth of hotels in Australia with demand strong and no new major hotel opening in the past two years. Hotel data benchmarking group STR Global has reported city hotel occupancies are up 6.6 per cent and revenues per available room have jumped nearly 14 per cent in the year to April 2016. Sales of hotels in the region have been strong on the back of the rise in tourism with five hotels selling for nearly $150m in the past 18 months
Cairns is of course the main jumping off point for reef tourism.
And why is tourism flourishing there? Because the situation is not as Greenies describe it. Tourism operators have no difficulty in taking people to flourishing reefs. There are some parts of the reef that are temporarily out of action but there are plenty of parts that are fine. There is nothing to disrupt the tourist experience
If there are problems with the reef they lie in what Greenies say about it. They do not lie with the reef itself. It is deceitful Greenies that are the problem
Continued coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef could see international and domestic visitors to the region plummet by more than a million people a year, research by the Australia Institute warns.
The institute surveyed more than 3,000 Chinese, US and UK visitors, as well as 1,400 domestic tourists.
The Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Harbour Bridge were selected by international respondents as being their top Australian tourist attractions.
But the natural wonder is experiencing its most severe bleaching event on record, with an estimated 22 per cent of its coral, mostly in its northern sections, having died.
One of the survey questions in the Australia Institute research asked respondents: "If the Great Barrier Reef continues to experience severe bleaching and some of the reef dies completely, would you be more likely to choose an alternative holiday destination?"
More than one-third of Americans answered yes, as did 27 per cent of UK tourists and 55 per cent of Chinese.
"Across those three countries there are 175,000 tourists who risk not coming to Australia at all if the reef continues to be bleached," the Australia Institute's executive director Ben Oquist said.
The research states that nearly 900,000 Australian tourists would most likely choose somewhere else to visit if the reef continues to experience bleaching.
"Along with visitor numbers, the potential loss of tourism revenue represents almost one-third of the $3.3 billion spent by holiday visitors to reef regions each year, which supports between 39,000 and 45,000 jobs," the Australia Institute's report states.
"Around 10,000 jobs are at risk from decreased visitation and spending if severe coral bleaching of the reef continues."
"I definitely agree with [the research findings]," said John Rumney, who's been running reef tours off far north Queensland for 40 years.
"As soon as the reef passes that critical point, that tipping point, and we don't have something nice to show people, they'll stop coming."
According to The Guardian, some Cairns operators have reportedly refused to take journalists out on the reef for fear of feeding more negative publicity.
Mr Rumney said it was time his industry openly debated the future of the Great Barrier Reef.
"Everyone in the reef business knows in their hearts that their business is related to a healthy reef. It's just they're afraid to say anything about it because it will be construed as 'oh it's bad now, it's too late'. No, if we don't take any action it will be too late."
The Australia Institute research singles out coal as a leading contributor to climate change, which scientists in turn blame for rising sea temperatures and coral bleaching.
"Four in five people work in service industries, while only 1 per cent work in the coal industry," the report said. "Policies such as a moratorium on new coal mines can be implemented with a minimal effect on the Queensland economy."
Two-thirds of Australian respondents in the survey said there would be a negative impact on the reef if Australia continues to build new coal mines.
"If we're going to save the Barrier Reef and if we're going to address climate change it's clear the world has got to start burning less coal and using less coal and to start that we've got to start approving less mines," Mr Oquist said.
Monday, June 20, 2016
The Reef’s Self-Serving Saviours
By WALTER STARCK
(Walter Starck is one of the pioneers in the scientific investigation of coral reefs. He grew up in the Florida Keys and received a PhD in marine science from the University of Miami in 1964. He has over 40 years worldwide experience in reef studies and his work has encompassed the discovery of much of the basic nature of reef biology. In this process over 100 species of fishes, which were new to science, were found as well as numerous, corals, shells, crustaceans and other new discoveries)
All the many and varied claims of threats are based on speculation and the flat-out fabrications of researchers, bureaucrats and activists seeking grants and donations. Let us hope that a political leader emerges to decry and defund the gold-plated alarmists and the immense harm they are doing
coral not coalVirtually every year for the past half-century news reports have bannered dire proclamations by "reef experts" on imminent "threats" to the Great Barrier Reef. This has sustained an ongoing, ever-growing charade of "research" and "management" aimed at saving the reef from a litany of hypothetical threats conjured up by a salvation industry which now costs taxpayers over $100 million annually. Although none of these "threats" have ever proven to be anything other than hypothetical possibilities or temporary fluctuations of nature, the doomsters never cease to rummage through their litany of concerns to find something they can present as urgent in order to keep the funding flowing.
For a time in the 1970s and ’80s genuine basic research was beginning to reveal a fascinating range of new understanding about the reef. Sadly, this all too brief golden age of discovery faded away when researchers found that the surest path to funding was to go with the flow and float their careers on the rising tide of environmentalism. We now have a whole generation of researchers whose entire involvement has been in the context of investigating various environmental concerns. Understandably, they perceive and/or present every fluctuation of nature as evidence of some threat.
In this process the open, sceptical, inquiring approach of science has been displaced by what has become the environmental facet of political correctness. Like the latter, it is weak on evidence and brooks no questioning of its doctrine, the penalty for any such heresy being personal denigration, the rejection of research funding, and the rejection of papers by peer-reviewed journals. At its most sinister, even dismissal from employment.
However, and despite all the pretence of scientific authority and consensus, there has been an growing divergence between the orthodoxy and the reality. This stress has recently ruptured into a serious fracture of the salvationist monolith. A recent article, "Great Barrier Reef: scientists ‘exaggerated’ coral bleaching", in The Australian reports the chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Russell Reichelt, as stating that the extent of the recent coral bleaching event has been greatly exaggerated. This admission is particularly significant for two reasons: it specifically contradicts claims by researchers, and it comes from the GBRMPA, which until now has itself taken a lead in proclaiming the scientific authority of the many and purported threats to the reef.
Additional support for the accusation of serious exaggeration about threats to the reef has also come from the reef tourism industry, which is gravely concerned about the negative impact of such publicity on their businesses. As the dive-boat captains and tour operators know from their own direct and daily experience, the reef remains healthy and vibrant. It is not dying.
Meanwhile, the doomsters persist in upping the ante to a level of absurdity, now claiming $16 billion is needed from government over the next decade to save the reef.
The reef itself is out there, over the horizon and beneath the sea, where the truth and evidence of its ongoing good health is safely inaccessible. Any alleged and imminent catastrophe can be claimed, with little risk of those claims being revealed as untrue. Indeed, given the media’s inclination to take dictation rather than seek and publish facts, such assertions are seldom even questioned. In the absence of evidence, an easy-to-claim "authority" alone prevails. "Experts" flourish where knowledge struggles and trust is safe from test. Even so, truth has a way of accumulating over time until even the best crafted untruths cannot be maintained.
Recently, there has been a flurry of doomster propaganda capitalising on an extensive coral bleaching event. The thrust of the impression being presented is that most of the corals on the GBR have been killed, that climate change is the cause, and making billions of dollars available to the reef salvation industry is urgently necessary.
The actual situation is far less dramatic. Bleaching events occur when wave-driven mixing ceases during periods of extended calm associated with strong El Niño conditions. This results in the one- to two-metre surface of the ocean becoming several degrees warmer than the water immediately below. This extra-warm layer moves up and down several meters with the tide and may extend deeper in channels or around the edges of reefs where it flows off shallow reef tops on a falling tide. Corals subjected to excessive warmth and rapid temperature fluctuations expel the symbiotic algae which live in their tissues and their white limestone skeletons show through their now-colourless polyps. Such bleaching mainly affects the shallow tops of reefs where it is also very conspicuous. Coral at greater depths remain healthy.
The GBR consists of over 2500 named reefs and many more smaller, unnamed coral patches. The high percentages claimed to be affected by bleaching refer to a sample of reefs where some bleaching was seen, not to the total area of coral which has been affected. The reef is vast and bleaching surveys have naturally concentrated on the regions where it is occurring. How much of the total coral area of the GBR has bleached has not been assessed. A reasonable estimate would likely be closer to 10-20% than to the 90+% being claimed in news reports. Most of the affected corals can be expected to survive and promptly recover, just as they have in other bleaching events.
Some portion of bleached corals will indeed die, and high levels of recovery may require a decade or more. However, mortality from this cause is natural and not dissimilar to the effect of naturally occurring fires in forests. On the GBR, damage to reefs from severe tropical cyclones is in fact much more intense, extensive and frequent than the effects of bleaching. Historical records and proxy studies clearly indicate that both El Niño events and tropical cyclones have been common for many centuries and that neither their frequency nor intensity has increased. In fact, the frequency and intensity of storms in the past century appear to have been well below the preceding one, and there is clear evidence of far more severe impacts in earlier centuries.
It is also important to be aware that extensive coral mortality on shallow reef tops can result from heavy rain during an exceptionally low tide when corals can be exposed to the air for several hours. These so-called "minus tides" can be accurately predicted; typically, they occur several times in most years. It is not at all improbable that this entirely natural factor might also be involved in the mortality being attributed to the recent bleaching.
Whatever the cause, though, any apparent damage is never wasted by those who understand the academic funding process better than than they are prepared to admit grasping the truth about the reef, its corals and eco systems. For otherwise un-notable academics, it is a welcome opportunity to appear important, to bask in the spotlight and attract public attention, to hype the "save the reef" industry and squeeze further funding from politicians under pressure to be seen as doing something, no matter how pointless and expensive. Next year — and you can bet the house on this — the current "threat" will be forgotten in favour of a fresh one.
The repeated claim of a 50% decline in coral cover is based on a recent study which was preceded by an earlier one using the same data from the same research institution only two years before. The first one concluded that no statistically significant change in coral cover had occurred over the previous 25 years. The 50% decline was then declared after including surveys of the damage inflicted by two Category 5 cyclones in the subsequent two years, along with liberal application of some dubious statistical jiggery pokery. Contrary to the claims of this second study, the frequency of such storms is not increasing and reefs do recover surprisingly quickly. A 20% increase in coral cover in the cyclone damaged areas has already been found.
The newer study was published in a high level peer-reviewed journal which requires that any conflicting evidence be addressed. Although the earlier study was briefly cited in passing, no acknowledgment was made of its directly contradictory conclusion. By not mentioning any conflicting evidence in a journal which specifically requires this, the false impression was presented that there is none. It is also worth noting that the lead author of the first study was a co-author of the later one. How then to explain the conflicted findings? At minimum, some might see scientific misconduct at work, perhaps even outright fraud.
Crown-of-Thorns starfish infestations devouring corals are another superannuated "threat" currently being recycled. In the past it was first blamed on shell collecting, then on fishing when the charge against collectors lost all credibility. More recently, the blame shifted to declining water quality due to fertiliser runoff from farming. The reality is that erratic population booms are inherent to the reproductive strategy of starfish and are well known for various species all over the world. Crown-of-Thorns outbreaks commonly occur on isolated oceanic reefs, as well as on coastal reefs in desert regions where agricultural runoff cannot be a factor. Extensive sampling of the frequency of the distinctive spines of the CoT starfish in reef sediments indicate large and erratic fluctuations for at least the past 8000 years. On the GBR no credible correlation has been demonstrated between CoT outbreaks and runoff events. In Western Australia the same kind of CoT outbreaks occur despite there being no runoff from agriculture.
Corals on the GBR are frequently subject to extensive natural mortality from storms, floods and bleaching events. There is no evidence of any recent increase in the frequency or intensity of such events. In the subsequent recovery process the fast growing branching and plate-like coral forms tend to overgrow the slower growing, more massive species. The preference of CoT for these faster growing forms may well be important in the maintenance of coral diversity.
The effect of runoff on GBR water quality has also been grossly exaggerated. Significant runoff in the GBR catchment is limited to occasional brief flood events. These affect only relatively restricted inshore areas well removed from the main body of the reef, which is much further offshore. The nutrient flux on the outer reefs is dominated by naturally occurring internal waves which are much more frequent and orders of magnitude greater in effect than anything coming from the land. Contrary to the highly misleading claims of the reef’s self-proclaimed and self-promoting saviours, there is no evidence of decreasing water quality on the GBR. If anything, the quality of runoff has almost certainly improved over recent decades from advances in land-management practices. In particular this has included a substantial reduction in fertiliser and pesticide usage. There is simply no evidence for any decline in water quality on the reef, and agrichemical usage in the catchment area has declined in recent decades. In short, no evidence exists for anything other than natural perturbations in the condition of the GBR.
A further repeated and grossly misleading claim by the reef salvation industry involves the value of reef tourism. They often cite a varying figure in the billions of dollars which, if not entirely fabricated, can only be the total value for all tourism in the region. This ignores the fact that only about half of visitors actually visit the reef at all and, for the majority of those who do, it is a one-time day trip. A 2013 report by Deloitte Access Economics entitled Economic Contribution of the Great Barrier Reef estimated the value of reef-related tourism in 2012 was $481.4 million — a mere 7.5% of the total value for tourism. Attributing the entire value for tourism to the reef is no more honest than attributing it to the rainforests, beaches, restaurants, backpacking or any other activity that attracts tourist dollars. To do this repeatedly is pathetically ignorant, grossly dishonest or both.
Still another, repeatedly presented misrepresentation is that of increasing warming of reef waters. While there does seem to be a slight warming trend of about three-quarters of a °C over the past century in the global average temperature, the records on which this is based are highly variable and erratic with a margin of error which is greater than the claimed warming. Where good records are available some places show warming and others cooling. The available sea surface temperature data from the GBR shows no statistically significant trend over the past three decades.
The reef is fine. Reef tourism operators know this from direct daily experience and have belatedly started to object to the doomster propaganda. All of the claims of threats to the GBR are based entirely on hypothetical speculations or outright fabrications by researchers, bureaucrats and activists seeking grants, budgets and donations. To its credit, as noted above, even the GBRMPA has recently found the untruths and exaggerations too much to endorse. Government needs to recognise that where genuine understanding is limited, committed belief in the prevailing misunderstanding does not constitute genuine expertise, nor can truth be conjured by modelling ignorance with a computer.
Coral reefs are highly diverse dynamic environments frequently subject to large natural perturbations. Environmentalism primes us to believe in a "fragile balance of nature", with any significant fluctuation as evidence of some unnatural "impact" caused by humans. Researchers soon discovered that investigation of environmental threats assured generous funding and the result is now a whole generation of researchers whose entire training and experience of the reef has been in the context of investigating such threats. They see every fluctuation as a threat and while they proclaim deep concern for the reef, their true commitment is more to the threats. This becomes apparent if any suggestion is made that a purported threat may not be as great as they claim to fear. The reaction is never hopeful interest. Always, it is angry rejection.
Regardless of whether the reef salvation industry is based on sincere self-delusion or more base motives, it is out of touch with the reality of both the reef and the economic circumstances we face. It has become an extravagant farce. It has never effectively addressed any threat and is something we can no longer afford. It is past time for this to begin to be recognised as such, most particularly
The claim that $16 billion is needed to save the reef is utter nonsense. That vast sum cannot prevent climate change, nor can it stop storms, floods or El Niño events. It cannot prevent starfish outbreaks or bleaching. All it can achieve is to keep the reef saviours on a permanent Barrier Reef holiday and drive more of our struggling primary producers out of production with ever more restrictions, demands and costs.
This is beyond stupid. It is obscene. Australia is indeed the lucky country — but luck, by definition, is never a permanent condition and the current circumstances of the economy are unprecedented and serious, with prospects for the future even more so. Although having one of the world’s highest levels of per capita GDP, Australia also ranks among the highest of developed nations in personal debt, interest rates, and taxation, as well as costs for housing, power, food, education and health care. At the same time most manufacturing has been driven offshore and is now at the lowest portion of GDP in developed economies.
In an economy increasingly dependent on primary production the number of small independent producers has also declined by two-thirds or more over recent decades. This is true across the spectrum from small miners to farmers, graziers, loggers and fishermen. Although various factors have played a role in this change, ever increasing environmental restrictions, demands and costs have been key elements. Unfortunately, these smaller independent operators were the flexible, low-overhead producers who could weather the vicissitudes of nature and markets to thrive in better times. The result has been an ever increasing dominance of foreign owned multinational companies across primary production as well as soaring food prices for domestic consumers.
Australia is now caught up in a perfect storm of weak commodity prices, a high dependence on imports and overseas borrowing, plus an economic base that is increasingly foreign owned. Although the behaviour of complex dynamic systems, such as the national economy or the GBR, is inherently impossible to predict with certainty, the best available evidence indicates that the condition of the economy is far more threatened than is the reef. The "threats" to the reef exist only in the realm of hypothetical possibilities imagined by armchair "experts" claiming authority and unsupported by any firm evidence. The demand for government to spend billions of dollars to "save" the reef is simply obscene when the effective real outcome can only be to load more demands and restrictions on vital productive activity already struggling to remain viable.
A further exposure of the rot in reef science appeared only a few days ago in The Australian (June 11) entitled "Reef whistleblower censured by James Cook University" reports that Professor Peter Ridd, a very experienced and highly regarded senior professor at James Cook University, was threatened with a charge of serious misconduct for questioning the scientific integrity of some blatantly alarmist claims about the GBR. In academic speak "serious misconduct" is code for the sack. If a highly regarded senior professor is so treated take it as a given that the 90+% of academics who are more junior in status will take note to avoid any appearance of dissent. It appears that, as far as the administration at JCU is concerned, maintenance of a comfortable place at the public trough must override any considerations of academic freedom or scientific integrity. It would seem the official definition of "serious misconduct" is more concerned with exposing it than with its commission.
To add a further layer of absurdity to the farce, the upcoming election is seeing politicians of all parties vie with one another to shuffle and re-label sundry budget items and issues in order to inflate public perception of their "commitment" to saving the reef. As if a solar farm in Western Australia or banning a coalmine in outback Queensland represents meaningful efforts to save the reef!
Reader responses to alarmist hype in the mainstream news media clearly indicate a large and growing majority of the electorate is unsympathetic to the ongoing eco farce. When a political leader finally emerges who is willing to confront it, that person is likely to find a tsunami of support. We can only hope that day is coming soon.
Monday, June 13, 2016
Coral corruption: An honest environmentalist in trouble
Honest scientists are an endangered species. Must toe the line. Below are three recent articles referring to Prof. Peter Ridd. You can see why he's got the Warmists steaming
When marine scientist Peter Ridd suspected something was wrong with photographs being used to highlight the rapid decline of the Great Barrier Reef, he did what good scientists are supposed to do: he sent a team to check the facts.
After attempting to blow the whistle on what he found — healthy corals — Professor Ridd was censured by James Cook University and threatened with the sack. After a formal investigation, Professor Ridd — a renowned campaigner for quality assurance over coral research from JCU’s Marine Geophysics Laboratory — was found guilty of "failing to act in a collegial way and in the academic spirit of the institution".
His crime was to encourage questioning of two of the nation’s leading reef institutions, the Centre of Excellence for Coral Studies and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, on whether they knew that photographs they had published and claimed to show long-term collapse of reef health could be misleading and wrong.
"These photographs are a big deal as they are plastered right across the internet and used very widely to claim damage," Professor Ridd told The Weekend Australian.
The photographs were taken near Stone Island off Bowen. A photograph taken in the late 19th century shows healthy coral. An accompanying picture supposedly of the same reef in 1994 is devoid of coral. When the before-and-after shots were used by GBRMPA in its 2014 report, the authority said: "Historical photographs of inshore coral reefs have been especially powerful in illustrating changes over time, and that the change illustrated is typical of many inshore reefs."
Professor Ridd said it was only possible to guess within a kilometre or two where the original photograph was taken and it would not be unusual to find great coral in one spot and nothing a kilometre away, as his researchers had done. Nor was it possible to say what had killed the coral in the 1994 picture.
"In fact, there are literally hundreds of square kilometres of dead reef-flat on the Great Barrier Reef which was killed due to the slow sea-level fall of about a meter that has occurred over the last 5000 years," he said. "My point is not that they have probably got this completely wrong but rather what are the quality assurance measures they take to try to ensure they are not telling a misleading story?"
A GBRMPA spokesman said last night "the historical photos serve to demonstrate the vulnerability of nearshore coral reefs, rather than a specific cause for their decline.
"Ongoing monitoring shows coral growth in some locations, however this doesn’t detract from the bigger picture, which shows shallow inshore areas of the Great Barrier Reef south of Port Douglas have clearly degraded over a period of decades." Centre of Excellence for Coral Studies chairman Terry Hughes did not respond to questions from The Weekend Australian.
Professor Ridd was disciplined for breaching principle 1 of JCU’s code of conduct by "not displaying responsibility in respecting the reputations of other colleagues". He has been told that if he does it again he may be found guilty of serious misconduct.
A JCU spokesman said it was university policy not to comment on individual staff, but that the university’s marine science was subject to "the same quality assurance processes that govern the conduct of, and delivery of, science internationally".
This is the crux of the issue for Professor Ridd: "I feel as though I am the whistleblower."
His potential downfall is the result of a long campaign for better quality assurance standards for ocean and reef research, which has come under fire globally for exaggerating bad news and ignoring the good. Reef politics is a hot topic in the wake of widescale bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef as part of what US agencies have called the world’s third mass-bleaching event.
About a quarter of the Great Barrier Reef has died and could take years to rebuild. The damage is concentrated in the northern section off Cape York. The scientific response to the bleaching has exposed a rift between GBRMPA and the JCU’s Coral Bleaching Taskforce led by Professor Hughes over how bleaching data should be treated and presented to the public. Conservation groups have run hard on the issue, with graphic images of dying corals. All sides of politics have responded with increased funding to reduce sediment flow and to combat crown of thorns starfish.
University of Western Australia marine biologist Carlos Duarte argued in BioScience last year that bias contributed to "perpetuating the perception of ocean calamities in the absence of robust evidence".
A paper published this year claimed scientific journals had exaggerated bad news on ocean acidification and played down the doubts. Former GBRMPA chairman Ian McPhail accused activists of "exaggerating the impact of coral bleaching for political and financial gain". Dr McPhail told The Weekend Australian it "seems that there is a group of researchers who begin with the premise that all is disaster".
Concerns about quality assurance in science are not confined to the reef. Drug-makers generated headlines when they were unable to replicate the results of landmark studies in the basic science of cancer. Professor Ridd poses the question: "Is the situation in marine science likely to be worse than in medicine and pharmaceuticals, psychology, education? Do we have a decent system of replication and checking of results?
"Is there a chance that many marine scientists are partially driven by ideology? Is there a chance that peer review among this group is self-selecting of the dominant idea? Is there a robust debate without intimidation?"
Professor Ridd wants an independent agency to check the science before governments commit to spending hundreds of millions of dollars.
There is no doubt the current bleaching is a serious event but there are also many questions still to be answered. The consensus position of reef experts is that bleaching events will get worse as ocean temperatures continue to rise because of climate change.
Great Barrier Reef death in five years is "laughable"
CLAIMS by a James Cook University professor that the Great Barrier Reef will be "terminal" in five years have been rubbished by one of his own colleagues.
In a scientific paper released this week, JCU’s Dr Jon Brodie and Professor Richard Pearson warned the natural wonder would be in a terminal condition within five years without a $10 billion commitment during the federal election campaign to improve water quality.
They said many parts of the Reef were in bad shape from pollution, climate change, and overfishing, and they were continuing to decline.
The researchers predicted a wave of crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks in 2025 triggered by poor water quality.
But JCU marine geophysicist Professor Peter Ridd said his colleagues’ claims were "laughable". "I think the threats to the Barrier Reef are greatly exaggerated and mostly based upon science that is very poorly quality assured," he said.
Latest findings by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority show 93 per cent of the natural wonder has varying levels of coral bleaching which was worse in remote parts off Cape York.
Prof Ridd said bleaching was an entirely natural event. "It has always occurred over the millennia, and this is nothing special," he said. "It’s no different to say that on the land, when in extremely dry conditions for example, eucalypt trees lose their leaves.
"There are all sorts of response mechanisms to extreme conditions. "High temperature is one of those, and bleaching is the response corals have."
Mr Brodie said if climate change continued at its current pace the combination of its effects and a starfish outbreak or similar event could lead to permanent loss of the coral.
He said the current federal election campaign was probably the last chance for politicians to put forward their plans of action on water quality and climate change if the GBR was to avoid permanent damage.
"It takes time for change to happen and we need to start fast. If something is not done in this election cycle then we may not see good coral again in our children’s lifetime," he said.
Prof Ridd agreed that coral bleaching needed to be studied, but questioned spending too many resources to do it. "Australia faces far worse environmental problems than threats to the Reef," he said.
"Invasive species and noxious weeds on our rangelands are a much greater threat than the small amount of loss that we may or may not have had on the Barrier Reef."
Great Barrier Reef science needs 'quality assurance' to guarantee accuracy and better policy decisions: academic
A James Cook University academic claims a lack of 'quality assurance' of science about the Great Barrier Reef is failing policy makers
Audiences in far north Queensland have been told scientific claims made about the health of the Great Barrier Reef are not subjected to the same level of "antagonistic rigour" as those made in the private sector.
Physical oceanographer Peter Ridd, from James Cook University, says quality assurance is a well-understood concept in just about every industry, but not in the scientific world, where arguably claims and predictions are frequently used to influence decision and policymakers.
Professor Ridd reviewed the data and found "major problems and statistical errors" in several scientific papers in which claims were made, for example, about calcification rates and a reduction in coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef.
The widely-accepted system of scientific peer review was failing to deliver the antagonistic scrutiny or rigour required, he claimed.
"They may be your mates, they could hate you and really give you a hard time, but the crucial thing is peer review is only a read of the actual paper," he said.
"It won't delve into the data and some of the data sets are enormous and it can take you months and months of work to really check if there's not another interpretation and that's the problem.
"The peer review is a great start in terms of quality assurance and we need it for all science, but for the really important science where you're going to make big policy decisions...
"When you're going to spend a billion dollars to save the reef or you're going to close down the fishing or the coal industry, you need to have a better system of quality assurance than this peer review process and that is what we don't do.
"It does happen in the private industry, but it doesn't happen for the public good science that we're talking about."
Professor Ridd said in the absence of a guaranteed method of "proper antagonistic review", enormous resources and attention was being directed at some environmental threats at the expense of others.
"A lot of the science is proposing hypothesises that there is perhaps a threat, but the data, in many cases, doesn't actually support that there's a huge risk, that there's a risk there but maybe not as large as we thought.
"For example, we have diabolical problems with feral animals and noxious weeds, but almost no money is spent on those problems while we spend a lot of money on the reef.
"I am not totally sure the Great Barrier Reef isn't majorly threatened or majorly damaged, but what I'm totally sure about is the scientific system is not working, that we're not guaranteeing debate."