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Australian conservation group eyes stronger climate change actions to retain beauty of Great Barrier Reef


The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest reef which stretches about 2,300 km along the coast of the Australian state of Queensland, remains the "planet's most beautiful marine environment."

A global effort is called to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century in a bid to curb the world's temperature from increasing by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Mention the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) nowadays and many people assume the vibrantly colored corals have already been bleached by climate change, however, one of the reef's most enthusiastic custodians has a far more hopeful vision.
 

Andy Ridley, the chief executive of Citizens of the GBR, believes the world's largest reef, which stretches about 2,300 km along the coast of the Australian state of Queensland, remains the "planet's most beautiful marine environment."

"A lot of people believe the Great Barrier Reef has already gone, but it actually hasn't -- it's still extraordinary," Ridley told Xinhua in an interview to mark the Earth Day on Friday.

"Climate change is definitely kicking this year, and we've had a bleaching, but it's also important to know that it doesn't mean the whole of the reef is bleached."

Spending most of his time in Cairns, the gateway to the GBR, Ridley said "it's quite difficult not to fall in love with the actual sight here." He said the GBR Marine Park is massive, and it contains about 3,000 coral reefs consisting of a variety of coral in myriad shapes, sizes, and colors.

For example, the three kinds of coral the group is trying to detect now are "very common." "We have Plate coral, which looks like a kind of plate in practice, we also have Branching corals, lots of branches, and so on, they are all very common."

A tourist snorkels in the waters near the Whitsunday Islands, part of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, on Feb. 10, 2018. (Xinhua/Justin Qian)
 

"That's why we're so passionate about it. We want people to get involved and to help us protect and conserve it," Ridley said. "You can still go there today and be blown away by how amazing it is."

Among his group's main conservation projects are two Great Reef Census for which volunteers in a flotilla of tourism boats, yachts and fishing vessels have captured more than 42,000 images taken throughout the GBR.

Ridley said the enormous task of analyzing the images would begin within the next few months, so more volunteer "citizen scientists" would be most welcome to help collate the vital data.

"You can help, if you're OK to spend a bit of time looking at images and verifying them online," he said. "It's not complicated, but really important for everybody to get involved."

Despite his inherent optimism, Ridley concedes the big issue of climate change needs to be confronted on the global stage, a message he shares with organizers of Earth Day.

Earth Day is held annually to heighten awareness of environmental issues with this year's theme being "Invest in our planet."

Organizers are calling on a global effort to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century in a bid to curb the world's temperature from increasing by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"If you have the chance to get out there in nature, then get out there and breathe in nature and find your inspiration in this amazing planet," Ridley said. 

A tourist takes photos of Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands, part of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, on Feb. 10, 2018. (Xinhua/Justin Qian)

Published : April 23, 2022

By : Xinhua