Seaweed chokes Australia's Great Barrier Reef
Saturday 09 January 2010
Australian natural wonder the Great Barrier Reef is overgrown in places by seaweed in what could be a worrying indication of the health of the coral structure, scientists said on Wednesday.
Surveys of the World Heritage-listed reef, already at risk from global warming, found that more than 40 percent of areas closest to shore were dominated by green weed, Professor David Bellwood said.
"We knew there would be some weed there, we were just surprised how much," Bellwood, a marine biologist from James Cook University, told AFP.
"We are concerned about it because it does look like a lot of weed and in other places in the world, weed is an indication of decline."
Bellwood said the offshore reefs, those at least 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) from Australia's eastern coast, were largely untouched by the algae but that some of those closer to shore were choking with weed.
While the reason for the build-up of greenery was not known, Bellwood said he suspected it was because algae-eating fish have died out in those areas.
"The question is, does this mean the Barrier Reef is in real trouble? That the reef is rotting from the inside out? Or does it mean to say that that amount of weed is natural? And the answer is: it's hard to say," he said.
Bellwood, from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said the best defence for the reef would be clean water and the existence of herbivorous fish which could graze on the weeds.
"The Great Barrier Reef is in the best condition of any reef in the world," he said.
"However, it is suffering. And it has suffered significant declines in coral cover in the last few years. The presence of that weed is just another little red light."
Scientists have already warned that the 345,000-square kilometre (133,000-square mile) attraction is in serious jeopardy as global warming and chemical runoff threaten to kill marine species and cause disease outbreaks.
Bellwood said the seaweed could be just the latest problem for the reef.
"It's just that when you combine run-off and fertiliser and pesticides and climate change and human interaction and coastal erosion and coastal development and fishing and overfishing... these things are all starting to accumulate," he said.
The reef is believed to have deteriorated significantly since European settlement in 1788, after enduring coral disease, toxic blue-green algae and infestation by pestilent species such as the crown-of-thorns starfish.
EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.
Global warming ‘will make our winters colder’
A good year for nature in Britain, despite the cold: After frostiest March for 50 years, summer gave rise to an explosion in wildlife
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
UN climate change deal in Peru attacked by environmental activists as 'weak' and 'ineffectual'
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 5 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...
£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...
Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...