The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australia’s lead management agency for the Great Barrier Reef, released its position statement on climate change, widely acknowledged as the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs worldwide. The position statement outlines what is causing the climate to change, why it’s the greatest threat to the Reef, and that securing the Reef’s future requires actions at all levels.
The Authority’s position is:
‘Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Only the strongest and fastest possible actions to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the risks and limit the impacts of climate change on the Reef. Further impacts can be minimised by limiting global temperature increase to the maximum extent possible and fast-tracking actions to build Reef resilience.’
Position statements express the Authority’s view on an issue where it has a strong interest but is outside its direct regulatory control. They can be viewed on their website.
Climate-related impacts on the Great Barrier Reef are already detectable, with back-to-back years of mass coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017. Resilient reefs can regenerate after a disturbance if given sufficient time to recover. However, more frequent and more intense bleaching allows less time for coral reefs to recover and adapt, and reduces their ability to withstand other impacts such as disease.
There is growing recognition that limiting the increase in global average temperature to 1.5°C, and ideally less, is critical to minimise the loss of reef habitats. The required reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions to reach this goal demands an international and national response.
Global average temperature increase and what this means for coral reefs
Building the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef is central to ensuring it can withstand threats. The Authority encourages:
- the strongest and fastest possible actions to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions
- partnerships, plans and actions that reduce cumulative impacts on the Reef
- actions that build Reef resilience and protect key species for reef recovery
- actions that enable adaptation and restoration of reef habitats
- strong and effective management of local and regional pressures (such as water quality and pest outbreaks).
These measures to build the resilience of the system in the face of the externally driven risks from climate change and must be implemented in parallel to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
If we are to secure a future for the Great Barrier Reef and coral reef ecosystems globally, there is an urgent and critical need to accelerate actions to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
For more information on climate change and its impacts on the Reef, visit the Authority’s website.