Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is under strain from climate change, but ‘controversial’ research could help save it

TOWNSVILLE, Australia: Under bright lights and the watchful eyes of leading scientists, young corals are taking shape. These are the new breed, lab rats and hybrids, exposed to a wide range of different water conditions.

Some experience additional heat or more light, water contaminants, and changes in salinity. Three million liters of seawater can be pumped through this system every day. While the natural environment outside has never been so unpredictable, here everything is under control.

Close to one of the most precious ecosystems in the world, there is cutting-edge science.

This is the National Sea Simulator, a world-class facility used by researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in the state of Queensland to better understand the impact of climate change on the corals of the Great Barrier Reef.

What happens here could profoundly shape the future of the reef.

Reefs are in steep decline all over the world. Corals are dying as global carbon emissions continue to drive up temperatures. Marine heat waves are becoming more frequent, leading to mass bleaching, events where stressed corals lose color, leaving reefs looking like strange yards of white bones.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest in the world, covering an area larger than Malaysia, stretching from southeast Queensland to the tip of Papua New Guinea. It is diverse, complex and made up of thousands of different islands and reefs that have evolved over millennia.

However, never has its survival been more threatened.

Teresa H. Sadler