By LEE McIVORlmcivor@gladstoneobserver.com.au
GLADSTONE will be at the centre of a world-first project investigating global warming and its effects on the Great Barrier Reef.
Comalco announced yesterday it would inject $1 million in funding to the "Future Reef'' project, a four-year partnership between Comalco and the Great Barrier Reef Research Foundation (GBRRF).
Comalco's chief financial officer Phillip Strachan said the funds would be used to investigate the impact of ocean acidification on the reef, arguably one of the most critical issues facing the reef and its associated industries.
Mr Strachan said acidification was a result of the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which produced the greenhouse effect.
According to GBRRF scientists, acidification occurs when excess carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean, producing too much carbonic acid which in turn increases the acidity of the oceans.
While scientists say little is known about the impact of rising ocean carbon dioxide levels on marine life, at the very least it is expected to affect the ability of marine animals to produce healthy skeletons and protective shells.
GBRRF managing director Judy Stewart said climate change was one of the most critical issues affecting the short and long-term survival of the reef.
"Comalco has been a member of the foundation since 2000 and this partnership is a result of a shared interest in climate change,'' she said.
"The Future Reef partnership provides us with a unique oppor-tunity for industry and science to work together.''
Phillip Strachan said the re- search would be conducted at the University of Queensland's re- search facility on Heron Island.
"A component of the research is to involve our Gladstone employ- ees through laboratory and field work,'' Mr Strachan said.
"Approximately 120 employees will travel to Heron Island to work alongside researchers to collect data starting in 2006.
"In this way the partnership will allow us to take back to our operations a wider understanding of climate change.''
Mr Strachan said Comalco had reduced its emissions by 30 per cent since 1990.
"We have a commitment to con- tinue to improve our technology so that we reduce emissions,'' he said.