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Great Barrier Reef Threatened By Australian Flood Waters

Great Barrier Reef Threatened By Australian Flood Waters

As flood waters start to recede from the streets of Queensland, Brisbane and other cities hit hard by the weeks of relentless rain, experts are saying that the Great Barrier Reef–the world’s largest natural reef system–could be in danger.

Plumes of dirty, fresh water from the Burdekin, Fitzroy and Burnett rivers are flowing into the ocean off the coast of Queensland, carrying with it a toxic mix of nutrients, sediment and pesticides from agricultural run-off as well as unknown amounts of trace metals from flooded mines that could be lethal to the living organisms that make up the reef.

According to NewScientist, the inundation of silt introduced by the fresh water threatens to clog the delicate coral reef, while the drop in salinity may also be problematic for the stenohaline organisms.

The AP reports that weeks of relentless rains and flooding across Australia’s northeast have already resulted in the deaths of 26 people, and an additional 20 people are still missing.

For years extreme drought conditions have threatened both the people and wildlife of Australia, but recent torrential downpours caused flooding to reach over 14 feet in some urban areas.

CNN.com reports that currently the biggest plumes of fresh water reach about 200 kilometers (124 miles) north from the mouths of the Fitzroy and Burnett Rivers, and stretch around 70 kilometers (43 miles) off the coast.

“These are extraordinary events. The whole of the inner-shore reef lagoon filled with river water,” Jon Brodie, Principle Researcher for the James Cook University’s Australian Center for Tropical Freshwater Research told CNN.

As for the cause of the sudden flooding? Brodie with other experts about what triggered the heavy rain: “It was predicted. It certainly fits the pattern of severe weather events from climate change modeling.”

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Image: Fed by the Burdekin River, the waters around Cape Bowling Green turn muddy brown, and a thick plume of sediment nears the Great Barrier Reef.
Credit: Flickr - Nasa Goddard Photo and Video

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74 comments

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5:21PM PDT on Apr 15, 2011

Thank you Beth.

8:50PM PST on Feb 8, 2011

I am very thankful to you for this wonderful article . The great barrier reef is a beautiful.

9:39AM PST on Jan 27, 2011

there is nothing going on its just a natural cycle of the climate. at least that is what my represenatives are saying. its not real science that is mumbo jumbo scare the people waco environmentalest. if they would only come out their doow where the rest of us are living the would see it with their own eyes.

9:09PM PST on Jan 22, 2011

thanx for this article

6:30PM PST on Jan 22, 2011

Thanks for the article. It is going to take time for everything to recover.

5:35PM PST on Jan 19, 2011

When people don't have the opportunity to travel it is often difficult for them to understand how what we do to our environment has a consequence not only locally, but elsewhere. It's frustrating when people don't connect the dots. My heart goes out to all people suffering from environmental disasters.

6:59PM PST on Jan 18, 2011

this is so sad.grace to the people who live in these areas.May God give them the strength to surpass this trial.

11:30AM PST on Jan 18, 2011

After returning in Oct. from a fabulous retirement trip, I hope these beautiful areas are not harmed beyond repair.

2:46PM PST on Jan 17, 2011

As if they needed another assault. Will humanity ever learn to work in line with nature rather than against it? Nature is indiscriminate in seeking it's balance, the more we do to throw off that balance the more severe the correction.

12:39AM PST on Jan 17, 2011

It would be very difficult to prevent this upcoming environmental catastrophe. What have we done?

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