Humans caused Great Barrier Reef collapse: study

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 16:15 EDT
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A fish swims free at the Great Barrier Reef near Australia. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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The long-term collapse of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia can be directly attributed to farming runoffs from European settlements, a study published Tuesday claimed.

The study, published in Tuesday’s edition of The Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to connect soil and sediment filled with toxic chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides prior to the decades of climate-driven decline seen in the Great Barrier Reef, one of the largest living structures on the planet.

The study finds that the effect of this pollution basically stopped an important type of fast-growing coral, called Acropra, from growing in damaged areas, preventing the reef from repairing itself after major disturbances like storms or damage by boats dragging anchors.

“There was a very significant shift in the coral community composition that was associated with the colonization of Queensland,” marine biologist and co-author John Pandolfi told Live Science. “They just weren’t able to come back after the 1950s.”

Although human activities near the reef are currently managed by the Australian government, they don’t yet have any regulations on farming runoff, which the study’s authors recommend. “Any kind of measures that are going to improve the water quality should help those reefs to recover,” Pandolfi reportedly said.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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