Gladstone forum reveals biggest concern for Barrier Reef
RENOWNED marine physicist Dr Peter Ridd delivered the latest information on the plight of the world’s largest living organism, The Great Barrier Reef, at a forum in Gladstone on Tuesday night.
The former James Cook University professor, who has been studying the reef for more than 30 years, was invited to Gladstone by LNP candidate Ron Harding, who is passionate about the reef.
Federal Senator for Queensland Matt Canavan and Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd also addressed almost 50 people who attended.
“After spending the day with Ron, I’ve come to the realisation that if we could bottle his passion, we could power the whole country,” Senator Canavan said.
Dr Ridd told the forum the Great Barrier Reef was one of the most pristine ecosystems on the globe.
He said monitoring of the reef, which started in 1985, revealed it had the same amount of coral cover it did then, as it does now.
Like any ecosystem, Dr Ridd explained the reef went through cycles, including coral bleaching and Crown of Thorns Starfish attacks, but it definitely recovers.
“You always hear about the big crashes, the big impacts to the reef, but you never hear about the slow recovery over about 10 years,” he said.
The biggest impact on the reef, Dr Ridd said, was cyclones.
“Dredging, in terms of the effect, is even less than agriculture, which is minimal” he said.
“Cyclones absolutely dwarf what a dredge can do when it comes to sediments.”
In March 2009 when tropical cyclone Hamish hit, 11 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef was destroyed in 24 hours, Dr Ridd said.
“It was about the same size as Belgium, so a small European country worth of reef was lost,” he said.
But the reef has significantly recovered since, Dr Ridd said.
A way to prove this is through the growth rings coral has, Dr Ridd said, exactly like trees.
Dr Ridd called for The Australian Institute of Marine Science, that has not measured the reef’s coral growth rings for the past 15 years, to conduct the work to reveal the truth.
“This will be beautiful evidence there is nothing wrong with the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.
The quality assurance of scientific research currently used is abysmal, Dr Ridd said.
So is the credibility of ‘peer reviewed’ research, he said.
“A peer review amounts to not much more than ‘a couple of mates’ reading over something for a couple of hours,” he said.
“It is totally hopeless as a quality assurance mechanism.
“We need a thorough peer review of six months or more by a group of scientists.
“The most important thing we need to do is to get this science right again.”
To solve this issue, Dr Ridd called for a government office of Scientific Quality Assurance to be established.
The most concerning issue confronting the reef for Dr Ridd is the impact of ocean PH on coral growth.
“I do worry a little bit about the effect of carbon dioxide on the ocean PH,” he said.
“There have been some experiments done that seem to indicate that it might slow the growth rate (of coral).
“But the actual measurements of coral growth rate indicate the coral growth rates are about five per cent higher now than they were 100 years ago, and that’s what you’d expect with a very gently warming climate.”
When the room was opened up for questions, people were concerned about the $444 million given to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation in 2018, and how it was being used.
Dr Ridd detailed some ways he was aware of the money being spent, including feasibility studies into engineering to physically hold the 2000km long reef together.
“A lot of people are putting their hands in the public purse, claiming they are saving the reef, Mr Harding said.
“Some of that money could be put towards our kids, their education and our future.”