Sydney - Australia could help preserve an attraction that draws 2 million tourists a year by putting shade cloth over parts of the Great Barrier Reef to protect delicate corals from the effects of climate change, Tourism Minister Fran Bailey said Thursday.
Experts have warned that the coral bleaching that goes with higher temperatures could wreck the reef within 20 years.
'We're concerned about this because this is a 5.8-billion-Australian-dollar (4.4-billion-US-dollar) tourist industry on the reef employing 33,000 people,' Bailey said. 'So obviously we're tackling this problem from both ends - the cause of the problem and also trying to find practical ways to mitigate the problem.'
Bailey said the idea of shade cloth strung from pontoons came from a study that found coral in shade was healthier than that in direct sunlight.
Ray Berkelmans, coral bleaching expert with the Australian Institute of Marine Science, predicted the reef would be dead by 2025 because coral had no mechanism to withstand the higher temperatures that rob water of its nutrients.
'Background temperatures have reached the level where every summer we are getting to dangerous conditions,' Berkelmans said. 'It will be a gradual decline - patch by patch and species group by species group, from one area after another.'
Australia, along with the United States, has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol that sets signatories legally binding targets for the reduction of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
Along with Washington, Canberra argues that cutting back on emissions would slow its economy. On a per capita basis, Australia is the world's biggest generator of greenhouse gases, with the US the biggest polluter overall.
© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur http://science.monstersandcritics.com/news/article_1217413.php/Australia_moots_Barrier_Reef_parasol