$150 million to drive innovations to boost Reef resilience

Thursday, 16 April 2020

The Morrison Government today launched the research and development phase of its world leading Reef Restoration and Adaptation science Program to help preserve and restore the Great Barrier Reef in the face of rising ocean temperatures and coral bleaching.

An initial $150 million will be invested in the new phase of the government’s Reef Restoration and Adaptation work, following the government’s endorsement of a two-year feasibility study led by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) into a range of science-based interventions.

A consortium consisting of AIMS, CSIRO, University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, James Cook University, Southern Cross University and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation will work closely with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The two-year RRAP feasibility study identified 43 concepts suitable for further research and development which include:

• Examining ways to collect and freeze coral larvae for use in year-round coral seeding

• seeding reefs with corals that are more resilient to heat to help coral reefs to evolve and adapt to the changing environment

• developing technologies that increase the survival rate of coral larvae and that can produce and deploy large quantities of more resilient coral larvae

• an ambitious concept to shade and cool large areas of reef at risk of bleaching by spraying microscopic saltwater droplets into clouds to make them more reflective of sunlight

• investigating methods to physically stabilise damaged reefs, after cyclone and bleaching events, to facilitate faster recovery.

The Morrison Government is committing $100 million through the $443.3 million Great Barrier Reef Foundation – Reef Trust Partnership with a further $50 million in research and scientific contributions from the consortium partners. Ten per cent of the Reef Trust Partnership funding will be allocated to Traditional Owner led restoration and adaptation activities.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation proposes to raise another $100 million in philanthropic donations from the private sector, with R&D providers committing to a matching $50 million in-kind investments, lifting overall investment in this critical effort to $300 million.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the research underlined the Morrison Government’s collaboration with world leading marine scientists in managing the reef.

“Climate change remains the biggest threat to the world’s coral reefs and while a global response is needed to tackle emissions, Australian science can lead the way in developing adaptive technologies to help protect the reef,” Minister Ley said.

“This is research that could help the reef recover from bleaching and which could assist it to adapt in the in the face of changing ocean temperatures.”

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Warren Entsch said that the world’s best managed reef deserved the very best scientific research.

“We have an amazing natural asset that communities depend on and it is in everyone’s interest that we research technologies that could help it to be more resilient,” Mr Entsch said.

Chief Executive of AIMS Dr Paul Hardisty said that the new research phase was the start of a critical national effort to help sustain and safeguard our reefs for the future, and stressed that adaptation efforts needed to go hand-in-hand with reducing global emissions.

“The Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program is Australia’s opportunity to shine in showing the world how we can support coral reefs to adapt and rebuild. For example, we have already seen some amazing results from the feasibility study in terms of simulated coral growth.”

CSIRO Environment, Energy and Resources Executive Director Dr Peter Mayfield said that while the Reef remains the best-managed coral reef ecosystem in the world, there is broad scientific consensus of escalating threats.

“Through novel scientific approaches underpinned by ongoing and effective collaboration across the research community we aim to make a material positive impact on the Reef’s health into the future,” he said.

Managing Director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Anna Marsden said there was strong community, business and philanthropic support for the efforts to ensure the reef remained a Global ecological icon.

“The feasibility study reveals that 71% of the Australian public support large scale efforts to help reefs adapt,” Ms Marsden said.

The study also shows these efforts could result in tens of billions of dollars of net benefit to Australia, particularly to reef communities.