Can money save the Great Barrier Reef?

Great Barrier Reef

A diver takes a photograph of bleached coral. Source: Shutterstock

THE GREAT BARRIER REEF is one of the world’s most intricate and beautiful natural wonders.

But it’s dying. Fast.

Global warming has caused sea temperatures to rise rapidly, leading to the bleaching of 67 percent of shallow water corals along a 700-kilometer stretch.

While bleaching has devastating effects on corals, just like badly bleached hair, it is salvageable with plenty of love, care and often a lot of money spent on saving it.

And this is what the Australian government have vowed to do.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced the “largest ever single investment” in the Great Barrier Reef.

A staggering US$378 million, the equivalent of half-a-billion Australian dollars, is being plowed into improving water quality, irradicating problematic predators, and growing restoration efforts.

The water quality can be vastly improved by ensuring farm fertilizer doesn’t make its way into the ocean.

Restoration of the reef will involve meticulous coral transplants, hoping to inject life back into the once vibrant reef.

Australia’s Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg told ABC the transplanted coral would be more resilient to heat stress and light stress.

As for the predators, the money will go toward culling crown-of-thorn starfish which are a natural but lethal predator to the coral.

The government has vowed to give the reef the best possible future.

However, scientists have warned the two successive heat waves in 2016 and 2017 have already killed nearly half the northern reef’s coral, and unless the government combines investment with a strong policy to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, the reef won’t stand a chance.

“…there’s a huge missing piece in the puzzle and that is a dramatically significant response to climate change,” Imogen Zethoven of the Australian Marine Conservation Society told ABC.

“The reality is, hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars have gone into reef rescue packages for nearly 20 years to deal with poor water quality. Yet we’ve had very little gain, so it’s extremely important that this time around the money is spent properly and we start to see the tide turning,” she added.

The Great Barrier Reef also contributes A$6.4 billion to the economy and provides 64,000 jobs.

There’s a lot riding on this huge investment and while the government seem hopeful, scientists maintain a conscious effort on both local and global scales must be made to reverse climate change, in order to save the Great Barrier Reef and many others in a similar state.