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Issues: Australia and New Zealand

The Great Barrier Reef


by Marlena Bludzien

Coral reefs preserve some of the most diverse ecosystems on our planet. They’re incredibly beautiful and create habitat to fish, worms, clams and many other animals and plants. They provide protection to the shore from continuously increasing events like hurricanes and tsunamis, and generate income through attracting number of tourists. The coral reefs are also a valuable source of pharmaceutical compounds that are used in treating cancer, heart disease and many other illnesses. It is estimated that annual profit the coral reefs generate to people reaches almost $400 billion.

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the largest coral reef in the world. This amazing structure extends for almost 1,400 miles. According to the most recent reports, 64% of the Great Barrier Reef has been damaged by severe bleaching.

Reef bleaching occurs due to high temperature of water which causes heat stress and forces corals to eject tiny photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae. Without zooxanthellae, the coral loses photosynthetic ability and can no longer synthesize nutrients vital to its survival.

Scientists attribute this violent change in temperature to global warming. The temperature of the planet has already increased by 1 degree Celsius in the past two decades and this is the first time in history that the Great Barrier Reef suffered such severe bleaching in two consecutive years. There is no doubt that devastation of coral is the effect of changing climate. According to Schleussner’s study “in a scenario with an end-of-century warming of 2 ◦C, virtually all tropical reefs are projected to be at risk of severe degradation due to temperature-induced bleaching.”

The coral reefs bleaching can have a detrimental effect on lives of millions of organisms. Because the process reduces the growth rate of coral, it can make the reefs more susceptible to diseases or even end their existence. Other marine organisms that feed on live coral and depend on it for shelter will also die if the bleaching continues. The socioeconomic consequences encompass loss of shoreline protection, loss of income generated from tourism and medical supplying. Saving the corals will require advanced limiting of the Earth’s warming. An extensive review of the possible actions can be found in the Schleussner’s report.

New Zealand’s White Gold Rush

By Jason Zheng

New Zealand contributes 3% of all the milk in the whole world. As well dairy farming is one of New Zealand’s primary industry export which regulates 46% of the whole economy. Dairy farming takes up about 1.7 million hectares, which are the homes for 4.9 million cows. Economically it is mind boggling to see how milk can power almost half of New Zealand’s economy. However, environmentally cows are one of the main source of New Zealand’s water pollution.

A single dairy cow can produce 120 pounds of waste every day, which equals to two dozen people. 200 cows can produce a massive amount of nitrogen as a sewage from a community of 5,000 to 10,000 people. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus cause excessive weed growth, slime and algae, as well affecting insects, fish and water bird population. Kevin Hackwell from Forest and Bird in New Zealand coined the dairy consumption as a “white gold rush, which is leading New Zealand to a freshwater quality disaster”. If this practice continues, then the fishing and recreational use of water would pummel.

The Waitakere City Council also stated that dairy farm especially, can contribute to high levels of bacteria and pathogens, as well remaining waste would end up on the shore of the docks. Fecal waste would wander into rivers and stream, which are sources for drinking water; however, consequently it would discharge into the sea. The New Zealand’s government is quite aware of these ecological disruptions, however their main goal is to double agricultural output by 2025.

Fish & Game Chief Executive Bryce Johnson stated that as the government and private sectors are more focused on economy than environmentally; the waterways, estuaries, and beaches, New Zealand’s tourism sector, international brand and kiwi will be greatly impacted. Or the people can look for a smarter way to grow an environmentally friendly economy.

There has been a study that was published in 2004 which applied water quality data from 1996 to 2002, where in the findings that lowland rivers and streams through pastoral lands were polluted. In 2011 the National Policy Statement for Fresh Water (NPSFW) report gives different findings ranging from groundwater to freshwaters, and lakes. As well there are five key areas that are needed for improvement: stock exclusion from waterways, nutrient management, effluent management, water use, and riparian management. There is no denial that New Zealand indeed has a large environmental problem, however as of now and the near future, dairy industries should “approach partnerships with regional councils other stakeholders” for the betterment of the water and environment.

Endangered Marine Animals in Australia

by Jeffrey Clayton

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