RiAus Adelaide Reef Project
The RiAus Adelaide Reef project launches this week and it’s time that we salute our ocean-dwelling friends. It’s time we pay tribute to those coral that have lost their colour, those fish that have lost their friends and all the other life in these diverse aquatic ecosystems that we usually forget about if we aren’t currently planning a holiday to the Great Barrier Reef. Yes, our reef friends all over the world are suffering and it’s about time we gave them a helping hand.
The biodiversity of reef systems alone is something to be cared for, home to thousands of unique species tightly wrapped in a symbiotic kingdom. A lot of these species hold secrets and treasures we all desire to behold, especially for their natural aesthetic beauty. The Great Barrier Reef alone is worth $6.9billion annually, due largely to the hordes of tourists that descend upon the reef to experience its famed wonders. But their beauty is just one aspect. Beyond the coloured corals and brightly painted fish are biological secrets waiting to be discovered. Around the world, researchers are slowly unlocking the secrets of clandestine chemical compounds, which may help in the fight against cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Unfortunately, despite their importance to our economy, the environment, the health industry and our culture, reefs are suffering from the impacts of urbanisation. Reefs are already struggling to cope with the stresses of climate change. Rising temperatures and acidified waters place unnecessary pressure on these fragile ecosystems. But another cost of our cosmopolitan lifestyles is the threat of pollution. Sewerage from water treatment plants, effluent from industrial waste, herbicides, pesticides, fertilisers, stormwater and rubbish, all find their way to the ocean and our reefs. And the malice of many of these point sources is only worsened by deforestation. Forests and intact vegetation provide a vital barrier of protection as they absorb some of the pollution before it reaches the ocean.
Understanding how all these various pollutants and their interplay affects reef systems is vital. Aside from the obvious toxicities that they bring, pollutants may also affect the intensity of light penetrating reefs and an overall diminished water quality. Detailed knowledge of these factors will help in predicting how changes in environmental conditions affect the growth and resilience of reefs, which may aid in designing management strategies and new policies to protect and preserve our reefs.
It is understated how important our reef systems are. Often we neglect their environmental, social and economic benefits and see them only as objects of beauty. But their potential for medical applications, their importance to coastal communities, their economic benefits and their sheer uniqueness, is something worth protecting.
By Noby Leong, The Other Side of Science