Advancing knowledge of life on the reefThere’s much to learn and much at stake
Life evolved from the sea. All living organisms, including bacteria and viruses, are programmed by DNA. Marine science extends our understanding of how life adapts, endures, reproduces and coexists. It yields information on complex chemical compounds that have potential medicinal and industrial applications. It explores renewable food and energy sources, sensory perceptions, how cells communicate, how species compete and cooperate, and countless other aspects of life.
Most scientific knowledge about coral reef species has been developed in the last 60 years or so. Many species have still not been scientifically described, named and classified, or are still only at an elementary stage of investigation. Many of the ones that have been studied in greater detail have been found to have remarkable abilities and characteristics. There is much more to know about life on our own planet – and especially on our Great Barrier Reef.
With so many reef habitats and species under threat around the world, it is important to do the science while we still can.
The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from rising sea temperatures, increasingly frequent and severe tropical storms, adverse changes in water quality, periodic explosions in Crown-of-Thorns Starfish populations and illegal fishing.
Science informs efforts to save, restore, preserve and conserve the Reef. Most research projects at Lizard Island Research Station (LIRS) contribute in this direction. Some of the projects conducted at LIRS are directly related to environmental management, such as those that explore ways of mitigating predation by Crown-of-Thorns Starfish on corals. Long-term studies are also very important because they provide data that enables valid comparison between past and present, and evidence for predictions of the future.
Science provides important information on the causes and effects of climate change and how these major threats are affecting coral reefs. It is also advancing knowledge of coral resilience and recovery, how best to manage it, and how other species will be affected by further coral loss, deterioration in water quality, rising sea levels, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, ocean acidification, nutrient and silt runoff from mainland agriculture and land development, overfishing and other critical factors.
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Coral reefs need our help
The Great Barrier Reef is a vital part of our ecosystem and a natural wonder beloved by Australians. It is a World Heritage Area that is at risk of being listed as 'in danger' in recognition of the many challenges it faces.
Science and the will for change are the only possible solutions. Our work is helping.