There was an encouraging study released in early January that describes how denuded reefs off the coast of Sydney Australia have been partially restored through seaweed transplants. Crayweed (Phyllospora comosa) is an ecosystem cornerstone in some reef system, providing a habitat for fish and crustaceans.
In 2008, researchers found it had disappeared from a 70 km (43 mile) stretch of coastline, likely due to the direct dumping of Sydney’s sewage into the water over the course of decades. Although the sewage lines were moved into deeper waters in the 1990s, the damage had been done. (On a side note, Sydney’s water treatment seems not only to have a troubled past regarding pollution, but a troubled present as well. A story for another day.)
Once the seaweed-free reefs had been identified, scientists undertook a project of transplanting crayweed to two barren areas in the hope of re-establishing the seaweed itself as well as the damaged marine environment. The good news is, it seems to be working, the seaweed is taking hold, and with time, other marine life might be back as well.
Enjoy the glow of this feel-good story for a moment before reading on to something happening up the coast from Sydney in Queensland.
I could try and be balanced about the following news, and to present it in an objective light, looking at the history of the area and the arguments for and against. But in this particular case, I just can’t.
The new Australian government under Tony Abbott has approved a dredging and dumping project that would allow 3.5 million cubic meters of sludge to be deposited on underwater areas within the Great Barrier Reef protected zone. The dredging is to facilitate expansion of coal export operations into one of the largest coal ports in the world, shipping Australian coal to China and India.
I guess it’s been determined that waiting around for the Great Barrier Reef to just give up and die due to the effects of greenhouse gases, climate change, industrial and agricultural pollution and shipping would take too long.
Having the fossil-fuel extraction industry just make direct attacks on the World Heritage site will get the job done quicker.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has final approval rights. Their decision is due by 31 January 2014. You can add comment on the GBRMPA website, or if so inclined, sign an online petition against this project to turn parts of the reef into mud pie here, or e-mail the Australian Environment Minister’s office here. Or, perhaps more effective, give the GBRMPA a call.
Study: Towards Restoration of Missing Underwater Forests (PLOS ONE Jan. 2014) – AH Campbell, EM Marzinelli, A. Vergés, MA Coleman, PD Steinberg