Why Does Coral Reef Research Need Support?

Coral reefs are extraordinary places with a diversity of plants and animals equaled only by rainforests.

By 1992, 10% of the world's coral reefs had already been damaged beyond repair and a further 60% were considered to be under threat. Humans are directly responsible for much of this damage through destructive fishing practices, poor coastal management and global warming. The massive climate-related coral bleaching event of 1998 pushed the estimate of destroyed reefs to 27% of the world's total. For further details, see "Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2000" by Clive Wilkinson, available as a pdf file on the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network website.

We know very little about this vast treasure house. For example, the spectacular annual mass coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef was discovered as recently as the 1980s. There is so much to learn about coral reefs - we have only just scratched the surface.

Any form of underwater research is expensive and it is even more so in locations remote from major population centres. Island research stations provide the most cost-effective way of facilitating research on coral reefs. In Australia and elsewhere, however, government funding is inadequate to develop and maintain island research stations. Scientists and other users pay fees that cover operating expenses at the Lizard Island Research Station, but these are not sufficient to allow for any capital development. Such funding must come from individuals and from industry.

Why is the work at Lizard Island so important?

At the Lizard Island Research Station, about 100 research projects are carried out each year by professional scientists and postgraduate research students from Australia and overseas. This work has resulted in more than 1700 scientific publications. The knowledge contained in these publications is available to reef managers worldwide, who use it to develop plans for conservation of coral reefs.

This level of output can only be achieved because the Research Station provides the facilities that scientists need, right on the Reef. The Station would not be able to operate and our fellowship program would not be possible without the continuing support of donors and members of the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation.

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Dr Anne Hoggett , Director, Lizard Island Research Station
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