Nearly all of Australia’s coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, will suffer from overwhelming climate change in less than two decades, a new report warns.


Global environmental think tank, the World Resources Institute (WRI) has released research into climate change impacts on the world’s reefs called Reefs at Risk Revisited.

The report says Australia’s reefs are the least affected by local threats, such as fishing and agricultural run-off, of reefs in any global region and praised the nation’s “world’s best practice” in reef management.

Today, 40 per cent of Australia’s reefs are under pressure from rising sea temperatures and other threats linked to climate change.

By 2030, 90 per cent of Australian reefs will be threatened by warmer seas and acidification, the report says.

United Nations sponsored Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network coordinator Dr Clive Wilkinson says the data show there’s no time to waste.

“Australians have no right to be complacent as the vast majority of our reefs will be seriously threatened by rising sea temperatures and increasing acidification in less than 20 years,” Dr Wilkinson said in a statement.

“Australia has to be part of the global solution to climate change as our reefs will suffer like others around the world and this will threaten the $5 to $6 billion per year that the Great Barrier Reef means to the Australian economy.”

The report says most Australian reefs are remote from land and not subject to the extensive subsidence, fishing pressure and pollution that many of the world’s coral reefs endure.

“Moreover Australia demonstrates world’s best practice in reef management, with 75 per cent of it’s reefs in marine protected areas,” it said.

“The increase in high-level protection from five per cent to 33 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef is seen as a major contributing factor in the improvement of fish numbers and increased reef resilience to climate change.”

AAP peb/cr