January 6, 2010
Seaweed Overload In Great Barrier Reef
A ridiculous amount of green seaweed has taken over much of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, leaving scientists worrying about the health of the coral structure.
Professor David Bellwood, of James Cook University and the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, told AFP that this seaweed has taken over 40 percent of areas closest to the shore. The seaweed could be just the latest problem for the reef.
"We are concerned about it because it does look like a lot of weed and in other places in the world, weed is an indication of decline," he said.
"We knew there would be some weed there, we were just surprised how much."
Bellwood believes all of the algae-eating fish have died in this area, causing a seaweed buildup. Reefs at least 12 miles offshore, however, have been untouched by the algae. The reason for this buildup is unknown.
Bellwood says the Great Barrier Reef is in the best condition of any reef on earth, but it's suffering.
"The presence of that weed is just another little red light," he says.
The reef is believed to have deteriorated significantly since European settlement in 1788, after enduring coral disease, toxic blue-green algae and infestation by pestilent species such as the crown-of-thorns starfish.
The reef is already being threatened by global warming and scientists say marine species are in danger.
"It's just that when you combine run-off and fertilizer and pesticides and climate change and human interaction and coastal erosion and coastal development and fishing and overfishing... these things are all starting to accumulate," he said.
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