POST TIME: 31 August, 2019 08:38:19 AM
Australia downgrades outlook for Great Barrier Reef to ‘very poor’
AFP, Sydney

Australia downgrades outlook for Great Barrier Reef to ‘very poor’

A picture taken on Thursday during a night dive, shows a Red starfish near Green sponge ball in the Tiboulen du Frioul reef near Marseille, southern France. AFP Photo

Australia downgraded the Great Barrier Reef’s long-term outlook to “very poor” for the first time yesterday, as the world heritage site struggles with “escalating” climate change. In its latest five-yearly report on the health of the world’s largest coral reef system, the government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority singled out rising sea temperatures as the biggest threat to the giant organism.

“The significant and large-scale impacts from record-breaking sea surface temperatures have resulted in coral reef habitat transitioning from poor to very poor condition,” the government agency said. “Climate change is escalating and is the most significant threat to the Region’s long-term outlook.

“Significant global action to address climate change is critical to slowing deterioration of the Reef’s ecosystem and heritage values and supporting recovery,” it said. But the agency added that the threats to the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) reef were “multiple, cumulative and increasing” and, in addition to warming seas, included agricultural run-off and coral-eating crown of thorns starfish. The agency said the outlook downgrade from “poor” in 2014 to “very poor” now reflected the greater expanse of coral deterioration across the massive reef, notably following back-to-back coral bleaching events caused by sea temperature spikes in 2016 and 2017. “The window of opportunity to improve the reef’s long-term future is now,” it said. The conservative Australian government has faced criticism from environmentalists for favouring an expansion of its massive coal mining and export industry over action to curb climate change.