Save our reef, save our heritage

July 19, 2007

Protecting the Great Barrier Reef from the impacts of climate change, natural disasters and rising human pressures will be a key test of Australia’s ability to keep our natural environment healthy and resilient.

That’s the message from Professor Malcolm McCulloch of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) to this week’s gathering of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), in Cairns.

“If Australia can’t save the GBR, then no-one anywhere in the world can save their coral reefs,” Professor McCulloch warns.

“We know the threats posed by coral bleaching, ocean acidification, rapid sea level rise and increased coastal erosion. It’s about what we can do in the way we manage the reef and look after it that will mitigate those threats.

“We have to make our corals as healthy and resilient as possible so they can withstand these stresses.”

Preserving Australian and World Heritage sites from dangers posed by climate change, natural disasters and conflict will be the focus of discussion at the ICOMOS conference being held at James Cook University campus in Cairns, North Queensland, this week (July 19-21).

“People often don’t realise how important heritage is to them. We reference ourselves against it and from it we develop the values that define us,” says conference convenor, Dr Susan McIntyre-Tamwoy of CoECRS.

“These sites should be appreciated, researched and documented while we have them - after they are gone it will be too late.”

The global impacts of natural disasters, climate change, globalisation and conflict are recognised as real risks by governments worldwide. However, their impact on the world’s natural and cultural heritage sites has not been well considered.

“We haven’t come to grips with the risks of climate change and the things that might be damaged or lost with an increase in sea levels,” says Dr McIntyre-Tamwoy.” We have to ask ourselves how those changes will affect our way of life.”

Another speaker, Dr John Hurd, director of conservation for the Global Heritage Fund, will explore how climate change is affecting the human heritage in the deserts: “Deserts are normally great places for preserving things, but recent heavy floods have totally destroyed ancient archaeological sites.” The deserts are changing – and are especially vulnerable to the increased rainfall expected in some areas under climate change, he says.

The ICOMOS conference will focus on developing strategies and awareness for the management and mitigation of the risks facing heritage sites.

The conference includes speakers and representatives from the heritage profession, industry, government and research institutes from Australia, Europe, USA, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

A public forum on heritage and climate change will be held during the conference to allow members of the public to engage in the debate over heritage conservation in the face of climate change.

Source: James Cook University

Explore further: Decarbonizing tourism: Would you pay US$11 for a carbon-free holiday?

Related Stories

What if 2 C isn't enough to cap global warming?

November 22, 2015

Locking in an action plan to cap global warming at two degrees Celsius will be the ultimate yardstick for success or failure at the Paris climate summit that opens in a week.

Australian green group to challenge India-backed coal mine

November 9, 2015

An Australian environmental group Monday launched a new legal challenge to a huge, India-backed coal mine, saying the government's recent re-approval of the project failed to consider the impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

Technology that lets self-driving cars, robots see

November 2, 2015

LiDAR, once used in the Apollo 15 lunar mission, has shrunk in size and cost, making it easier for researchers and product makers to bring the 3D vision mapping technology to smart devices.

Recommended for you

Can Paris pledges avert severe climate change?

November 26, 2015

More than 190 countries are meeting in Paris next week to create a durable framework for addressing climate change and to implement a process to reduce greenhouse gases over time. A key part of this agreement would be the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.