Climate Change and Energy

Pretending to Save The Reef

Written by
3 December 2021
Originally appeared in The Facebook page of Dr Peter Ridd

Scientists are collecting coral spawn to regrow dead parts of the Reef (see links below). The idea that the reef, which is as big as Germany, can be replanted this way indicates that the scientist might be becoming detached from reality. It is one thing to plant some corals on a few square meters, but there is no possibility that this can be scaled-up to anything like the size of the Great Barrier Reef.

Not that the Reef needs saving. All three major regions of the Reef have never had more coral on them (taking account data uncertainty) despite supposedly having three unprecedented bleaching events in five years. (see my previous posts).

Every year the reef produces trillions of spawn which drifts around for a period ranging from days to a few weeks. The spawn goes all over the reef. Some will settle and recolonise areas where coral has died, usually from cyclonic events but also from bleaching or crown of thorns starfish plagues. The quantity of spawn is truly prodigious, dwarfing the tiny amounts collected by the scientists.

Corals repopulate and recover after mortality events in about five to ten years. Strong recovery, which always occurs, is indicative of a very robust ecosystem. The latest spectacular recovery, after the 2016 bleaching in the Lizard Island area where this “IVF” work is being carried out, is proof of that (see link below)

Picture above from:
https://www.barrierreef.org/what-we-do/projects/coral-ivf

Nevertheless, this work might well be useful to quickly recolonise the coral around tourist pontoons around Cairns and the Whitsundays. These are very small areas but also crucial to the tourist industry. Such areas are occasionally damaged by natural events and speeding the recovery is both possible and useful – on such small areas, but on the scale of the whole reef it is not practical.

But, the Great Barrier Reef as a whole does not need any assistance.

It is one thing to pretend that the reef is dying, but to pretend they are saving it in this insignificant fashion damages their credibility.

This first appeared at the Facebook page of Dr Peter Ridd

References:

How SCU’s Peter Harrison is restoring the Great Barrier Reef ($)

Report on surveys of the Cooktown-Lizard sector of the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef’s world-first coral IVF gets help from Whitsunday tourism industry

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Peter Ridd

Dr Ridd is a Senior Fellow at the IPA, leading the Project for Real Science

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