Great Barrier Reef Restoration And Protection Plans Underway In Australia

Climate change and starfish have decimated the once-thriving coral reef.

australia plans to protect and restore the great barrier reef
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Climate change and starfish have decimated the once-thriving coral reef.

Australia is planning on investing hundreds of millions of dollars towards protecting and restoring the Great Barrier Reef, which has been decimated by climate change and a voracious starfish, BBC News is reporting.

The 1,400-mile-long Great Barrier Reef, which can be seen from space, is one of the natural wonders of the world. Composed of billions of colorful coral polyps, the amazing ecosystem covers 133,000 square miles.

It’s also dying, and quickly. Estimates vary, but between 30 and 50 percent of its coral has been destroyed in the last two years alone, as reported by The Inquisitr. What’s more, two-thirds of the reef has already been damaged.

The culprits are many, but the two biggest are climate change (specifically, rising sea temperatures, which can wreak havoc on the fragile and temperamental coral), and the crown-of-thorns starfish, which eats the coral. Another big culprit is agricultural runoff, which, according to Australian Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg, includes “large amounts of sediment, nitrogen and pesticide run-off.”

It’s the agricultural runoff issue that is getting the $500 million (or about $379 million USD) in funding. Specifically, the money will be used to reduce the amount of agricultural pesticides and other waste that is making its way from Australian farms and into the waters near the reef. Some of the money will be earmarked towards helping farmers in the area practice better agricultural practices that reduce such runoff and waste.

The plan to combat agricultural waste is the latest in Australia’s steps towards mitigating damage to the Reef. Already the Land Down Under has limited boating and fishing near the fragile ecosystem, but those efforts have only gone so far.

Dealing with the crown-of-thorns starfish has been a thorn in the side of the Australian government for years now. As the Great Barrier Reef Protection Authority reported in 2012, at most the government can focus on starfish outbreaks in specific areas – such as those of significant ecological value or “prime tourist sites” – by injecting them with a poison that doesn’t harm the reef or other life in the area.

The biggest problem facing the reef, however, isn’t going to be solved quickly and cheaply. It’s climate change, and Australia is considered one of the worst polluters when it comes to greenhouse gases. Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s CEO, David Ritter, made it clear that addressing climate change is the only way to truly protect the Great Barrier Reef.

“You cannot ‘preserve’ the Great Barrier Reef without cutting carbon emissions. That means no new coal, oil or gas.”

Australia has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to below 2005 levels by 2030.