Dr Karl Kruszelnicki leads a panel discussion on the state of the Great Barrier Reef at the Woodford Folk Festival.
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki leads a panel discussion on the state of the Great Barrier Reef at the Woodford Folk Festival. Seanna Cronin

Coral conversation: what can be done to protect reefs?

AMID the revelry of Woodford, a serious discussion took place today on the future of the Great Barrier Reef.

Tying into the 31st annual event's coral-themed artwork, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki hosted the forum on the state of the reef featuring an international panel of coral experts.

After giving the audience a crash course in coral biology, describing the tiny reef-building organisms as 'an animal that eats through its bum', Dr Karl introduced scientists Dr Russell Reichelt, Dr Fanny Douvere, Dr Brian Von Herzen and Professor Ian Lowe.

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki leads a panel discussion on the state of the Great Barrier Reef at the Woodford Folk Festival.
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki leads a panel discussion on the state of the Great Barrier Reef at the Woodford Folk Festival. Seanna Cronin

Despite their varying areas of specialty, the four experts all agreed the biggest issue facing the future of coral reefs including the Great Barrier Reef is man-made climate change, mainly the burning of fossil fuels, which causes warmer ocean temperatures resulting in coral bleaching.

As the sharp-shooting Prof Lowe put it: "We're on the Titanic on the way to the environmental iceberg and people are literally and figuratively putting coal in the burners".

But there is cause for hope. Dr Von Herzen shared the results of his work on corals in American Samoa, where he found bleaching could be reversed in 24 hours if the water temperature is lowered by just 0.5C.

The panel urged audience members to become politically active and pressure politicians to protect the reef.

"(We should be asking politicians) if you're prepared to lose the Great Barrier Reef, then what aren't you prepared to lose?" Dr Reichelt, the CEO of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, said.

The Woodford Folk Festival continues tomorrow and Monday at Woodfordia.



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