Sydney, Australia, Mar 22 (EFE).- The Australian government announced on Tuesday an investment of AU$63.6 million ($47 million) to improve scientific capacity aimed at protecting the Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site that has been hit hard by climate change.
The announcement coincides with the Mar. 21-30 visit of a United Nations mission to the Great Barrier Reef, northeastern Australia, to assess its conservation status, as well as long-term efforts of the Canberra government to protect it.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday in a statement that the investment will serve to strengthen the scientific capabilities of the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, as well as to improve infrastructure and a research vessel.
Morrison, who is seeking re-election this year, stressed that this new funding is in addition to the AU$3 billion investment under the Reef 2050 Plan created in 2015 to prevent UNESCO from including the Reef on its List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority confirmed on Friday that the Reef, which with its surface area of 348,000 square kilometers is the largest coral system in the world, is suffering from “widespread” and “severe” coral bleaching due to warmer waters.
The Reef, which has previously suffered significant bleachings in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020, is at risk of being declared a World Heritage Site in Danger if the UNESCO mission visiting Australia recommends it, after being saved last year from being included on this blacklist.
At the end of 2020, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature downgraded the Reef from being of “significant concern” to “critical” – the worst classification – as it continues to be at the mercy of climate change.
Home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of molluscs, the Great Barrier Reef began to deteriorate in the 1990s due to the double impact of warming sea water and increased acidity due to the greater presence of CO2 in the atmosphere. EFE