Australia’s Great Barrier Reef should be included in a list of World Heritage sites “in danger” according to UN experts who warned the fading wonder has been “significantly affected” by climate change.
A report commissioned by UNESCO said on Monday warming oceans and pollution from agriculture had threatened the reef and its resilience had been “significantly compromised”.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s top tourist draws and putting it on the In Dangers list could seriously damage its appeal to international visitors.
UNESCO considered listing the reef after a damning report in 2021, but backed down after intense lobbying from Australia’s former Conservative government.
In 2010, alarms about the deterioration of the reef were first sounded.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society said the reef supports 60,000 jobs and generates Aus$6 billion ($4 billion) in revenue each year.
Australia’s Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek acknowledged the reef was under threat but said putting it on UNESCO’s World Heritage in Danger list would be a step too far.
“We will make it clear to UNESCO that there is no need to single out the Great Barrier Reef in this way,” she told reporters.
“If this world heritage site is in danger, then most world heritage sites around the world are threatened by climate change.”
World Wildlife Fund spokesman Richard Leck said UNESCO’s recommendations should be accepted by the government.
“These UNESCO recommendations remind us that it is our choice to give the world’s most famous reef the best chance of survival,” he said.
Marine biologist Jodie Rummer said the UNESCO report shows Australia still has work to do.
“Our actions now will determine the frequency and severity of marine heatwaves that the reef will experience in the years to come,” she said.
The report, written by experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and UNESCO, recognized Australia’s commitment to protecting the reef.
But it turned out that despite the “unprecedented scientific and managerial effort,” the reef still faced “significant pressures” related to climate change and pollution from agricultural runoff.
Australian scientists reported in May that 91 percent of the reef’s coral had been damaged by bleaching after a prolonged summer heatwave.
It was the first time the reef had suffered bleaching during a La Nina weather cycle, when cooler sea temperatures were normally expected.
Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison was voted out earlier this year in favor of a centre-left government that promised greener policies and more climate action.
A UNESCO spokesman told AFP that “a constructive dialogue is ongoing with the current government”.
A site must be of “Outstanding Universal Value” to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
A place on the list usually means increased tourism and improved access to funds and scientific know-how.
Only three sites have ever been completely removed from the Heritage List.
© 2022 AFP
Citation: Great Barrier Reef in Danger World Heritage List (2022, November 29), retrieved November 29, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-great-barrier-reef-danger-world .html
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