Australia Pledges Largest Restoration and Management Investment in Country's History to Save Reef

Great Barrier Reef
Aerial view of Australia's Great Barrier Reef |

The Great Barrier Reef may appear to be on its last legs, but the Australian government is not giving up on one of the world's most important natural wonders just yet.

The government is pledging 500 million Australian dollars to secure the future of the Great Barrier Reef. The funding will be devoted primarily to scientific research for ways to reduce the population of coral-munching crown-of-thorns starfish as well as improve the quality of the water.

Some of the pledges will also be given to farmers for the development of new practices that can help decrease the amount of sediment run-off into the reef.

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg believes that the investment, which he deemed as "the single largest investment in restoration and management in Australia's history," might just mark a new beginning for the Great Barrier Reef.

He emphasized via SBS News that while the coral bleaching events in the recent years have done a number on the Great Barrier Reef, it remained "remarkably resilient," which he considers as proof that it is not too late yet.

Additionally, the fact that despite the damage it sustained, the reef still attracts more than two million visitors per year, therefore making it worth over $6 billion to the economy in addition to supporting 64,000 jobs, giving them all the more reason to act.

Describing the Great Barrier Reef as "a natural and national and international icon," Frydenberg says that the above are big enough reasons to keep them so determined to preserve it for posterity.

As to how they plan to do that, the Federal Environment Minister said, "Millions of dollars will go into science and to better data management, and to be able to test the impacts on the reef."

"We are looking at a whole range of new initiatives, taking best advice of the experts, working closely with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, to ensure that the reef has its best chance into the future," he went on to say.

While hopeful about the wonders the pledge can do to save the reef, Frydenberg admitted that there is a great battle ahead and global warming stands as the greatest hurdle to overcome.

Ocean waters are becoming too warm and too acidic for the coral to endure, as per a research published earlier this month on Nature, which showed that underwater "heat waves" led to the death of third of corals on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016.

This is after warm waters stress corals to a point that they expel the very thing they need to survive — photosynthetic algae — ultimately causing bleaching, where the corals turn pure white. Accelerating this is another phenomenon called ocean acidification, where carbon dioxide makes water more acidic, which, in turn, dissolves coral skeletons and then causes bleaching.

Unfortunately, scientists say that ocean waters are bound to get warmer, which means that bleaching events will be more widespread and common affair. Some experts even predict that the corals might be extinct by the end of the century.

Acknowledging global warming and climate change as the ultimate culprit behind the dire health of the Great Barrier Reef, Frydenberg offered ideas on how to get around this herculean problem.

"We have seen right across the world a number of reefs being hit by this heat stress and this is combined here in Australia with also Cyclone Debbie as well as the crown-of-thorns starfish," he explained.

"So you have got lots of things happening at once, all of which are damaging to the reef. That is why we need a full core press," he went on to say.

While Australia's efforts are promising, Futurism says that every nation will have to chip in to be able to see a noticeable change. So far, almost every country has signed the Paris Agreement to lower global greenhouse gas emissions, but there is still so much work that needs to be done.

The damage the reef has suffered is unfortunately deemed irreparable so the clock is ticking. The hope is that the pledge will be the first step to a large-scale feat that will breathe new life into the Great Barrier Reef.

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