Chapter Four

The Future Reef

Heron Island

In the southern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef lies The University of Queensland's Heron Island Research Station. Its idyllic location belies the importance of the work being done here by dedicated researchers and staff. We'll tour the island with Ben Potts finding out about the lives of scientists on the front line of reef research, and we'll meet a leading coral scientist whose simple experiment has a very clear message at its heart.

The Heron Island Research Station is a crucial hub for a wide variety of important reef research. But possibly the most critical is being carried out right now by Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and his team of dedicated scientists from the University of Queensland. Their aim is to predict the fate of the Great Barrier Reef into the future by subjecting controlled samples of today's corals to the higher sea temperatures and increased ocean acidity predicted as a result of climate change 100 years from now.

Their results are shocking, clearly showing almost complete destruction of the living corals and reef structure. But their experiment also gives cause for hope. The World Health Organisation calculates that through minimal global investment, CO2 emissions can be reduced to a level that Professor Hoegh-Guldberg's team has proven will radically improve the outlook for the Great Barrier Reef. By showing that coral can survive when subjected to these improved conditions, Ove's experiment demonstrates that there is still time to save the reef.

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Predicting the future of coral

It's not too late to act.
Experimental reefs show that by lowering the predicted rise in CO2 levels and temperature, we can reduce future damage. Equally, the experiments also show the devastation should we change nothing.


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Get Involved
Lady Elliot Island

What can be done for the Great Barrier Reef?

David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef ©Atlantic Productions 2018

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