The ocean plays a vital role in regulating our climate. Global climate change is set to have a profound impact on marine life as sea temperature rises and our oceans become more acidic.
But our oceans are changing...
In the first few months of this year, the Great Barrier Reef experienced the worst coral bleaching event in recorded history. As a result, almost a quarter of our precious Reef is now dead, tragically in the far northern section which was the most pristine.
The world has suffered three major bleaching events that were unheard of before now. The first major event was in 1998, then 2010, and now 2016. This year’s event has already become the longest on record and is predicted to last until the end of 2016.
Coral bleaching is caused directly by climate change. Our oceans are growing warmer because they’re absorbing excess heat from the atmosphere, caused by our continued burning of fossil fuels. The use of coal, oil and gas is the biggest threat to the continued existence of our Great Barrier Reef.
Experts say that corals can recover, if we give them a chance, but we are fast running out of time. Find out more
Scientists, conservationists and commercial fishers are deeply concerned about an unprecedented large scale dieback of mangrove forests across northern Australia’s coastline.
Around 10,000 hectares of mangrove forests along 700kms of coastline have died along the Gulf of Carpentaria. A detailed study is yet to be undertaken, but photographs reveal two locations worst hit, at Limmin Bight on the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory and at Karumba in Queensland.
The dieback is almost certainly correlated with an un-seasonally low Monsoon rainfall followed by extreme warming with sustained high sea temperatures.
Mangroves are critical to marine ecosystems and our climate. They act as crucial nurseries for many marine species, which spend at least some of their life spans in the mangrove roots. They also act as critical carbon sinks, absorbing 50 times more carbon than tropical forests by area, according to Professor Norm Duke, a mangrove expert from James Cook University.
The dieback came to light during an international wetland conference in Darwin. Conference delegates called for mangrove monitoring efforts to be scaled up as a matter of urgency, so that scientists can establish baseline data and try to isolate and manage dieback events such as these recently witnessed.
Kelp forests disappeared
Great swathes of kelp forests in Australia’s temperate south west have disappeared, and their demise is probably permanent, marine scientists say.
The findings come from a 15 year survey of reefs in Western Australia stretching 2000kms from Cape Leeuwin in the south to Ningaloo in the north. Over that time nearly 1000 square kilometres of kelp forest have been lost.
Kelp forests are the ‘biological engine’ of the Great Southern Reefs, which stretch around the southern half of Australia.
The loss of these forests could spell the loss of abalone and rock lobster fisheries, which are some of the most valuable fisheries in Australia. Together with reef-related tourism, they generate more than $10 billion a year.
The oceans off Western Australia are warming twice as fast as the global average. With climate change driving warmer waters and more heatwaves, we can expect more of these dramatic changes in the future.
How do we fix this?
Our oceans and coastlines are changing. We need the best minds and leaders to take stock of these rapid changes and make a swift transition from a carbon intensive economy to one based on renewable energy, and a truly sustainable approach to our natural world.
The solutions are clear.
We can heal our blue planet by creating a clean, sustainable future. Watch this space, and take heart that we are working towards a better brighter future together.