[ASC-media] ASC-media: Media Alert
w.ellery at aims.gov.au
Thu Jan 15 09:55:26 EST 2004
MEDIA RELEASE January 15 2004
Lost research washes up on north Queensland beach
A sea temperature recorder thought to be long lost has been found
washed up on a beach at Home Hill, complete with data critical to
helping scientists understand the heat stress killing coral on the
Great Barrier Reef.
Australian Institute of Marine Science researcher Dr Ray Berkelmans
had given up on ever finding the device that was attached to the
Abbot Point coal-loading jetty in October 2001. It came adrift six
"We thought we had lost a huge gap in data and knowledge that could
never be retrieved," he said.
Local Home Hill resident Jason Andrews was walking his dog along
Wunjunga Beach when he stumbled across the temperature logger, quite
unaware of the impact his find would make on science.
Dr Berkelmans said the loggers are usually deployed for about 6-12
months. "I can't believe the batteries were still live after 2 and a
The Ports Corporation of Queensland had enlisted the expertise of Dr
Berkelmans to monitor their sea temperature recorder, which is part
of their environmental program. The AIMS coral bleaching monitoring
team also uses the data to examine signals of climate change and
large-scale disturbances like coral bleaching.
The logger has provided data about the hottest summer on record
experienced on the Great Barrier Reef, which resulted in mass coral
bleaching and mortality. The Bowen region suffered the greatest
intensity losing up to 80% of coral during the blistering summer of
Dr Berkelmans said there is little wonder why the corals died with
sea temperatures soaring to 32 degrees. Normally the region's water
temperature wouldn't rise above 30 degrees he said.
"Preliminary evidence indicates that once the corals have bleached it
only takes an increase of around one degree to kill coral. This one
degree increase above the bleaching threshold may be the factor
consistent across all coral reefs," said Dr Berkelmans.
Scientists are now able to feed this information into climate change
models and work out how the Great Barrier Reef will cope with future
"If we know the amount of thermal stress coral can handle we're able
to predict how the Great Barrier Reef will cope with the projected
climate change," Dr Berkelmans said.
"The message for reef managers everywhere is that corals live
precariously close to their upper thermal limits making climate
change a crucial issue worldwide."
Armed with this new insight AIMS researchers will be able to use the
information gathered from their 100 plus temperature loggers on the
Great Barrier Reef to forewarn the reef's government guardian (The
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) of a coral bleaching event.
Dr Ray Berkelmans, AIMS Scientist, Ph: (07) 4753 4268, Email:
r.berkelmans at aims.gov.au
Wendy Ellery, AIMS Media Liaison, Ph (07) 4753 4409, Email:
w.ellery at aims.gov.au
Simona Trimarchi, Ports Corporation of Queensland, (07) 3224 4344
Jason Andrews, Mobile: 0428 821 331
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