Australia’s leading coral reef researchers and managers have come together to address one of the most pressing environmental issues to face our Great Barrier Reef.
The world heritage area is an economic, social and iconic asset valued at $56 billion, with important industries such as tourism and fisheries providing livelihood to many.
But this large and complex marine ecosystem is under extreme pressure and needs our help more than ever.
Maintaining the Reef into the future requires action and interventions, in addition to a commitment to greenhouse gas mitigation and continued management of local pressures.
The challenge to find solutions that would help the reef recover and adapt in changing environment is enormous. To address it, AIMS brought together the best minds in science and technology from CSIRO, James Cook University, University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
The Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program is a long-term R&D project to deliver the best science and technology options to help the Great Barrier Reef resist, repair and recover.
With $6 million funding assistance from the Australian Government, the partnership will begin a 10-year Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program.
Under the plan, the partnership aims to create a suite of tools that can be deployed to undertake large-scale recovery, restoration and adaptation of the Great Barrier Reef
While the program is initially focussed on developing technology and solutions to help the world’s largest reef, the solutions can also be applied to reefs around the world.
The Australian Government-funded 18 month concept feasibility study is the first phase of the 10-year Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program that will examine a broad range of potential concepts and then narrow in on the most feasible options.
Globally, reefs are under threat. Rising ocean temperatures saw mass coral bleaching on the northern and central Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017, which has been compounded by cyclones and outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.
The frequency and severity of bleaching events is predicted to increase in line with climate change predictions.
However, the Great Barrier Reef still has high biodiversity and remains resilient.
By acting now, we can help protect the predicted loss of coral species that provide critical habitat for 35 per cent of the world’s fish, and thousands of other marine species.
The commitments by governments to the targets of the Paris Agreement could limit further warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, providing an opportunity to develop actions to support recovery for the Reef.
Rising to the challenge
The Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program is a long-term research project to investigate best science and technology options to help the Great Barrier Reef resist, repair and recover.
Australia’s brightest researchers have already begun working on creative solutions but there is no one immediate and clear-cut answer for what is a complex issue.
Over the next 18 months, the new partnership will assess the feasibility and risks of many techniques. This planning phase is the first step in what ultimately is to be a large research and development program.
The program aims to produce smart solutions:
An essential part of the planning and feasibility assessment phase will be to understand not only the likely benefits and costs of any possible intervention but also the ecological, economic and social risks.
To do this requires a collective of all Reef stakeholders and relies on strong partnerships between researchers, government agencies and the wider community, including traditional owners of Australia’s sea country.
AIMS research leading the way
AIMS researchers have already started on work to understand how the temperature tolerance of corals can be increased through a range of techniques including natural selection and advanced breeding techniques.
We are also exploring techniques to help the reef repair itself after disturbances, facilitating recovery of bleached corals or deployment of coral larvae or ‘seed-stock’ of key species that provide critical ecological functions such as fish habitats.
We are looking for additional partners and there are many ways to engage.
For more information, please contact: