Warm water fear for Reef
TROPICAL fish and other marine life found in the Far North will likely move south in response to rising sea temperatures, a report by Australia's peak science body predicts.
The Climate Adaptation Marine Report Card 2012, released yesterday by CSIRO scientists, provides evidence of a large-scale redistribution of marine species in waters around Australia, revealing that climate change is already having an impact on marine biodiversity.
On the Great Barrier Reef, warming temperatures have been associated with reduced foraging success and chick growth in seabirds, changes in sex ratios of sea turtles, more frequent bleaching of corals, some increases in abundance of large herbivorous reef fish, and decreases in abundance of coral-dependent fishes.
Ocean acidification has also led to a potential reduction in coral calcification and thinning of shells on the Reef.
Among the promising findings is that some tropical fish species have demonstrated a greater ability to acclimatise to rising water temperatures than previously thought.
The report revealed the sea level around the continent is rising at a rate of 3mm per year, posing a threat to coastal systems. Most at risk are low-lying estuaries and tidal flats, and beaches where there is insufficient sand for replenishment.
CSIRO scientist Dr Elvira Poloczanska said the research will be used to find ways to help marine ecosystems adapt to climate change.
"Although there are some concerning findings in the 2012 report card, the information we've compiled is helping to ensure that ocean managers and policy makers are best placed to respond to the challenge of managing the impact that climate change is having on these systems," Dr Poloczanska said.
Led by CSIRO, more than 80 Australian marine scientists from 34 universities and research organisations contributed to the report card.
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Warming up: A report has raised concerns for life on the reef. Picture: XANTHE RIVETT