REEF RESCUE: Sara Perrott and Dr Chris Dudgeon.
REEF RESCUE: Sara Perrott and Dr Chris Dudgeon.

Reef-saving research Lady Elliot Island project aims to combat climate change threat

A RESEARCH project will be conducted to help protect one of the region’s most iconic treasures, from environmental impact.

Climate change is an ongoing threat that researchers believe will continue to place reef species and sea life at risk.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has partnered with the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) to conduct the first stage of the Reef Islands Initiative on Lady Elliot Island.

REEF RESCUE: Dr Kathy Townsend conducting a reef survey.
REEF RESCUE: Dr Kathy Townsend conducting a reef survey.

USC project leader and marine biologist Dr Kathy Townsend said the research will generate lists of species in the area.

“As the southern most island in the Great Barrier Reef, it’s predicted to be one of the last to experience the increasing effects of global climate change, which makes it an excellent location to begin this process,” Dr Townsend said.

“Over the next two decades, the island’s biodiversity is predicted to change as northern species drift south to escape rising ocean temperatures.”

More than $2.4 million will be invested through the Reef Islands Initiative, which is funded by LendLease, the Fitzgerald Family Foundation and the State and Federal Governments.

REEF RESCUE: Sara Perrott and Dr Chris Dudgeon.
REEF RESCUE: Sara Perrott and Dr Chris Dudgeon.

Dr Townsend said the project will assist in developing solutions that will ultimately protect the reef against man-made and natural threats, such as climate change.

“Our overarching goal is to fill this critical knowledge gap (and) to support resilience-based management for the island and its surrounding reef, giving us strategies to future-proof this important ecological and economic region,” Dr Townsend said.

“The project will also conduct much-needed research into how processes on Great Barrier Reef islands connect to surrounding in-water coral reef environments, from microscopic algae all the way up the food chain to sharks and manta rays.”

“It will give us a detailed baseline to monitor the impressive revegetation efforts on the island and assist in the interpretation of changes to surrounding coral reefs.”

REEF RESCUE: Zerra Egerton and Kathy Townsend conducting a bird survey.
REEF RESCUE: Zerra Egerton and Kathy Townsend conducting a bird survey.

The team of researchers will receive assistance in obtaining data from postgraduate students, project managers and citizen scientists.



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