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Great Barrier Reef under threat from water runoff: study

English.news.cn   2014-05-28 14:07:22

SYDNEY, 28 May (Xinhua) -- Land management practices need to be improved in order to prevent unnecessary sediment runoff that is affecting the health of the Great Barrier Reef (GRB), a new study has revealed.

The study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) used a variety of new and improved techniques to analyze 10 years of satellite data of the water clarity in the reef waters off the Burdekin coast in Queensland.

By removing the variability in water clarity caused by waves and other physical forces, the researchers were able to detect what particular influence river run-off has on reef.

"The study shows that large river flood events have a large impact on water quality, reaching very far off the coast and lasting several months," said AIMS Research Program Leader, Dr. Schaffelke.

The photosynthetic algae that live on corals and which gives coral reefs their vibrant colors are reliant on the sun to survive.

Sea grasses -- important food for mammals and fish -- are also dependent on the sun and a high level of sediment in the water can damage them or kill them by blocking the sun's rays.

Sedimentation can also physically block other marine organism's ability to breathe. Marine plants and animals are highly sensitive to changes in water quality.

"This study shows that improved land management practices can result in a win-win outcome. The retention of nutrients, clays and fine silts in the catchments near the Burdekin River on the East coast of Australia would not only safe-guard the long-term productivity of farms, but also improve water clarity and ecosystem health in the central GBR, during the wet and dry seasons" added Dr. Britta Schaffelke.

The research provides a vital link between the understanding of how land use influences river loads of nutrients and fine sediments and the current scientific knowledge of the importance of water clarity for marine organisms.

The study was conducted by a team of scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University and the University of Queensland.

Editor: Mengjie
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