Author Archives: Andy

Carbon dioxide is “driving fish crazy”

Rising human carbon dioxide emissions may be affecting the brains and central nervous system of sea fishes with serious consequences for their survival, an international scientific team has found.

Carbon dioxide concentrations predicted to occur in the ocean by the end of this century will interfere with fishes’ ability to hear, smell, turn and evade predators, says Professor Philip Munday of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University.

“For several years our team have been testing the performance of baby coral fishes in sea water containing higher levels of dissolved CO2 – and it is now pretty clear that they sustain significant disruption to their central nervous system, which is likely to impair their chances of survival,” Prof.…

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The constant gardeners of the world’s reefs

Australian scientists have urged greater consideration for the brilliantly-hued parrot fishes that tend and renew the world’s imperilled coral reefs.

“Parrotfishes are the constant gardeners of the reef. They play a crucial role in keeping it healthy, suppressing weed, removing sediment and helping the corals to regrow after a setback,” explains Professor David Bellwood of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University.

 

In a major new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Prof. Bellwood, Dr Andrew Hoey and Prof. Terry Hughes have investigated parrot fish populations on 18 coral island reefs extending from Mauritius in the west Indian Ocean to Tahiti in the central Pacific.

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Do marine parks need sharks?

Australia’s reef shark populations will be under the microscope thanks to Lizard Island Research Station’s latest John and Laurine Proud Fellow, Dr Ashley Frisch.

Dr Frisch and his team from the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies will undertake field studies at the remote research station to better understand the importance of sharks to coral reefs.

 

“Like the lions of the Serengeti or the wolves of Yellowstone National Park, sharks and large fishes may be keystone predators, which regulate the abundance of other organisms. However, this phenomenon is yet to be investigated on coral reefs” Dr Frisch said.

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When the heat’s on, fish can cope

Australian scientists have discovered that some tropical fish have a greater capacity to cope with rising sea temperatures than previously thought – by adjusting over several generations.

The discovery, by researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University and CSIRO sheds a ray of hope amid the rising concern over the future of coral reefs and their fish under the levels of global warming expected to occur by the end of the 21st century.

Understanding the ability of species to acclimatise to rising temperatures over longer time periods is critical for predicting the biological consequences of global warming – yet it remains one of the least understood aspects of climate science.

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Of turtles and men

Two young research scientists who are passionate about conservation planning and threatened species management have won prestige science awards.

Dr Mariana Fuentes and Dr Natalie Ban of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University are recipients of 2011 Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Awards which will be presented by the Premier, the Hon Anna Bligh MP at the Science in Parliament reception in Brisbane tonight.

Young Tall Poppy Science Awards are presented annually by the Australian Institute for Policy and Science to recognise excellence in early career research across all the sciences. Award recipients must not only be excellent researchers, they must also demonstrate passion and excellence in communication and community engagement.…

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Leaders urged to curb climate vulnerability

Representatives of the world’s governments meeting in Durban this week have been advised by scientists that urgent action is needed to reduce the vulnerability of communities worldwide likely to be worst affected by the impacts of climate change.

In a new scientific paper and book, leading marine researchers Dr Josh Cinner of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) and James Cook University, and Tim McClanahan of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) propose a novel framework for helping millions of people most at risk to cope with massive changes in their jobs, lives, and environment driven by the warming climate.

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Scientific sleuths pinpoint the guilty coral killers

The elusive culprits that are killing countless coral reefs around the world can now be nabbed with technology normally used to diagnose human diseases, marine researchers say.

Coral researchers and reef managers will be able to identify coral infections using a new method that allows them to classify specific diseases based on the presence of microbes.

This could lead to more effective action to reduce the impact of disease on the world’s imperilled coral reefs.

“Current classification of coral diseases is mostly based on a description of how the coral has deteriorated, such as the pattern of tissue loss and abnormal colours,” says Joseph Pollock, a PhD student at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.…

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Corals can sense what’s coming

Australian scientists have thrown new light on the mechanism behind the mass death of corals worldwide as the Earth’s climate warms.

Coral bleaching, one of the most devastating events affecting coral reefs around the planet, is triggered by rising water temperatures. It occurs when the corals and their symbiotic algae become heat-stressed, and the algae which feed the corals either die or are expelled by the coral.

There have been seven major bleaching events globally in the past 30 years, the most recent being in 2010 across the Indian Ocean and Coral Triangle. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has suffered eight events since 1980, the worst being in 2002 when 55% of the total reef area was affected.

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Fair trade “can help save reefs”

To prevent the collapse of worldwide fisheries and the death of coral reefs, fishing communities must be able to earn alternative incomes from other industries, a marine researcher warns.

Setting up marine protected areas (MPAs) to curb overfishing will not be enough to remove one of the biggest threats to ocean life, Dr Simon Foale from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University will tell the Coral Reefs: Coast to Coast symposium in Fremantle, WA, tomorrow 21 October.

“Many communities in developing countries like Papua New Guinea and the Philippines need livelihoods other than fishing, such as farming or manufacturing,” Dr Foale says.

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Give fishers a break, says researcher

Demonising fishermen does not help protect fisheries, a leading scientist will tell the “Coral Reefs: Coast to Coast” symposium held at Fremantle on Friday.

“The fishing trade is of huge importance to the livelihoods of many communities in the coastal parts of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia,” Dr Mike Fabinyi of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University says.

“The world may be threatened by a possible collapse of fisheries and destruction of coral reefs, but fishing communities are under constant, daily pressure to feed their families and send their kids to school,” he says.

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