Save our reef, save our heritage

Jul 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: Pact with devil? California farmers use oil firms' water

Related Stories

Why haven't Madagascar's famed lemurs been saved yet?

Jun 30, 2015

Lemurs are cute – there is no denying it. Their big eyes and fluffy faces mean they really are the poster animals of Madagascar, an island known internationally for its unique flora and fauna. But the plight ...

We can fix the Great Barrier Reef

Apr 06, 2015

Leading coral reef scientists say Australia could restore the Great Barrier Reef to its former glory through better policies that focus on science, protection and conservation.

Great Barrier Reef stays on UN watch list

May 29, 2015

The Great Barrier Reef will remain under surveillance but not be listed as endangered, according to a draft recommendation to the UN's World Heritage Committee, published on Friday.

Recommended for you

Gimmicks and technology: California learns to save water

Jul 03, 2015

Billboards and TV commercials, living room visits, guess-your-water-use booths, and awards for water stinginess—a wealthy swath of Orange County that once had one of the worst records for water conservation ...

Cities, regions call for 'robust' world climate pact

Jul 03, 2015

Thousands of cities, provinces and states from around the world urged national governments on Thursday to deliver a "robust, binding, equitable and universal" planet-saving climate pact in December.

Will climate change put mussels off the menu?

Jul 03, 2015

Climate change models predict that sea temperatures will rise significantly, including in the tropics. In these areas, rainfall is also predicted to increase, reducing the salt concentration of the surface ...

As nations dither, cities pick up climate slack

Jul 02, 2015

Their national governments hamstrung by domestic politics, stretched budgets and diplomatic inertia, many cities and provinces have taken a leading role—driven by necessity—in efforts to arrest galloping ...

User comments : 0

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.