Griffith studies environmental threats to the Great Barrier Reef

Uncovering the science behind the diminishing levels of coral on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the goal of a unique study led by Griffith University.

In collaboration with the University of Queensland, The Australian Institute of Marine Science and The Georgia Institute of Technology,

the multidisciplinary research team is examining how rising carbon dioxide levels affect the strength and competition between seaweeds and corals.

There is evidence from the Reef that coral growth rates have decreased by 15 per cent in the last 15 years and it is well documented that algae is destroying the coral, probably as a result of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.

This in turn, is altering the chemistry of the ocean and its marine ecology.

“Ocean acidification is just one of the consequences of increasing carbon dioxide emissions and this may be causing a significant

increased in algal growth and reduction in coral growth,” said Dr Guillermo Diaz-Pulido, Griffith marine ecologist and research leader

for the study.

Having been provided with a $300,000 ARC Grant for the three year study, the team will explore the impacts of ocean acidification on

ecological interactions between the two key groups on reefs: corals and seaweeds.

“Such knowledge is fundamental to managing the consequences of increased global emissions on the ecology and the sustainability of Australian marine ecosystems, including the Great Barrier Reef,” Dr Diaz-Pulido said.

“Many ecological changes are occurring as a result of ocean acidification. Accordingly, this is a complex study with a range of


“For example, a key consideration for us will be to unravel how the algae are poisoning the corals under these acidification conditions;

this will involve testing their strength and composition.’

Additionally, Dr Diaz-Pulido said climate change will be an important component within the study.

“Examining the interactions between climate change and ocean acidification on coral reef fate will be of particular interest.

“Specifically, we would like to find out if a one to two degree increase in temperature affects the mortality rate of the coral when it is exposed to algae and ocean acidification,” he said.