The Great Barrier Reef is an incredible place, which has led many groups to help fight for its conservation. Unfortunately, it faces a number of threats, many of which are connected. Therefore solving the problem becomes quite difficult as we need to focus on all of the issues simultaneously. You can find a list of conservation efforts below, but first, here are some tips on how you can help:
What can you do:
- Talk about The Great Barrier Reef – Spread awareness
- Choose an advanced eco-accredited company when visiting the reef and report your sightings using the Eye on The Reef App
- Refuse, Re-use, Recycle
- Minimise single use plastics
- Reduce your electricity use – switch off appliances at the mains when not in use.
- BYO Coffee Cup / Water Bottle
- Support Renewable Energy
- Leave your car behind and favour walking, cycling or public transport when possible
- Support Reef Charities, such as GBR Legacy, GBR Foundation, AMCS
- Become a Citizen of The GBR and participate in citizen science programs, such as Reef Blitz, Coral Watch, Reef Check, Eye On The Reef and Mangrove Watch
- Vote for politicians with strong environmental policies
- Participate in a beach cleanup
Great Barrier Reef Legacy are a non-profit organisation with a mission to provide scientists with access to the most remote reefs. Many of these reefs are simply too expensive for most scientists to visit. GBR Legacy aim to fund a permanent research vessel for The Great Barrier Reef, allowing scientists access to preform much needed research.
They also aim to connect the general public with the research, by making findings accessible and easy to understand.
A further goal is to provide an education service to the future generations who will become responsible for protecting our reefs.
Search for The Super Corals Expedition
In November 2017, GBR Legacy took a team of leading scientists to the remote Far Northern Reefs on The Search For The Super Corals Expedition. This project involved a number of leading scientists and institutions, including “The Godfather of Coral” Charlie Veron, Zack Rago (star of the Chasing Coral documentary), The Australian Institute of Marine Science and University of Technology Sydney (UTS), among others. This project achieved the following:
- AIMS flew 12 Super Coral samples back to the Sea Sim lab in Townsville for further studies (a world first)
- Genetic studies and water samples performed by UTS
- The mapping team mapped 30.8km of reef, with a further 12 km mapped from the air and in 3D
- Dr. Ian Bell tagged and sampled a green Turtle, Maree, at Jukes Cay
- Dr. Charlie Veron discovered at least one, maybe three new coral species – The first new coral discovery in 30 years
- The most diverse branching coral site ever seen on The GBR, with 181 species, was discovered
- Acropora tenuis was identified as a super coral as it was present on every single one of the reef sites surveyed, regardless of damage
- Dr. Tony Ayling identified a fish species as being new to The GBR
That was an extremely successful expedition and a first for The Great Barrier Reef as it encouraged different organisations to collaborate toward a common goal – protect this natural wonder.
Search For Solutions
This Expedition occurred in November 2018 and continued the work of GBR Legacy’s previous expedition. AIMS took more samples that were flown back to their lab for studies, Charlie Veron continued his work and identified the most diverse hard coral site known on The Great Barrier Reef and a team of photographers and videographers documented the Coral Spawning event using a variety of methods. This was another huge leap in helping us understand this incredible ecosystem.
Coral Nursery and Restoration Program
The Coral Restoration Program is based on Fitzroy Island. Coral fragments are attached to frames, which allows them to grow in 3-dimensions, which accelerates their growth. In other parts of the world, they are even running an electrical current through the frames. This causes minerals from the ocean to harden on the surface of the frames, creating a limestone layer. Coral fragments are then attached to the frames. The coral attaches itself easier, due to the limestone layer and this can make the coral grow up to 6 times quicker than normal. This restoration effort has been expanded and other companies are also trialing similar methods of restoration.2
Crown of Thorns Starfish Eradication
Growing up to 1m in diameter, The Crown Of Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster planci) can eat their own body weight in coral every single night. Click the link above to learn about the starfish itself, or click here to learn about the threats it poses to the reef.
The Crown of Thorns (COTs) Program is run by The Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO). They currently have two vessels, staffed with a team of divers. They inject bile salts from ox into the starfish. This causes an allergic reaction in The Crown of Thorns, leading to their death. They specifically target reefs that are valued as high tourism areas. In particular, those with high reports of The Crown of Thorns Starfish.
Coral Survival in Extreme Environments
A recent study published by Emma Camp et al. demonstrates the resilience of coral. We know that coral can survive in temperate and deep water, but this study looks at corals that survive other extreme conditions, such as in mangroves. Some corals are surviving in low pH (more acidic) environments, similar to predictions for the outer reef in the next 100 years. It covers corals that are surviving in rock pools where the temperature fluctuates by 6 degrees centigrade on a daily basis and even coral survival in low light environments or those with excess turbidity.
Probably the most relevant topic covered is with regards to corals living in the Persian-Arabian Gulf. The temperature there regularly reaches 35 degrees centigrade. The corals still bleach, but not until the water reaches around 35-36 degrees centigrade. All of this shows us that coral can adapt, the questions is, can coral on The Great Barrier Reef adapt quick enough to the speed of the changing environment? The next step is to do genetic studies on these corals, to understand how they survive in these conditions.1
Coral Larval Restoration Project
This project was led by Professor Peter Harrison and was upscaled in November 2018, through a partnership with various reef operators. During the major coral spawning event, boom netting was used to collect spawn and hold it within a specific areas, as well as in tanks on land, to increase the amount of larvae that survive to adulthood.3
Many other conservation programs are in place, with a number of organisations and individuals fighting for the protection of our reefs. It is important to note that none of us are perfect, but rather than focussing on the negatives, let’s celebrate every positive step forward we make and help us support each other to better the world in which we live.