Media Release Climate Change

Government must urgently step up ambition to protect coastal habitats from climate impacts

July 26, 2019

Revelations climate impacts have damaged vital marine habitats along at least 45 per cent of Australia’s coastline must serve as a wake-up call for the government to drastically raise its ambitions on climate policy, says the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

A new CSIRO study in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science looked at the impacts of extreme climate events between 2011 and 2017 on corals, seagrass, mangroves and kelp forests – all critical habitats for marine life. The study concluded that habitats along more than 45 per cent of Australia’s continental coastline had been damaged.

Adele Pedder, marine campaigner at AMCS, said: “Mangroves, seagrass, kelp forests and corals are absolute linchpins for the health of our coasts, but they are being clobbered by climate change.

“When we have about 15,000 kilometres of Australia’s coastline being impacted by extreme climate events, that should tell us that we have no time to waste.

“The Australian Government needs to cut its emissions by at least 65 per cent by 2030, and we need all our electricity to come from renewables by 2030. We have to push all governments to do more to reach the 1.5C global Paris climate target. 

“We must have policies across the board that give these habitats every chance to survive and come back, like keeping coastal ocean waters clean.”

The study reviewed the extensive damage across the four habitats and found: 

  • Tropical cyclones and flooding had impacted seagrass in Queensland and Western Australia
  • Record water temperatures had both bleached and killed corals on the Great Barrier Reef and in northwest Australia
  • Record high temperatures caused a mass dieback of mangroves affecting a 1000 kilometre-stretch along the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria
  • Long-term warming and marine heatwaves had killed large areas of kelp forests in Western Australia and Tasmania.

Pedder added: “As a country we have a large vested interest in the worldwide push to get greenhouse gas emissions down quickly. Australia’s marine tourism industry is worth $31 billion to the economy. 

“Thousands of species rely on these places being healthy and vibrant. We need the government to step up and drive ambition on climate change policy both here, and internationally.”


AMCS media advisor Graham Readfearn 0406 241 081