Humans Caused Historic Great Barrier Reef Collapse
The expansion of European settlement in Australia triggered a massive coral collapse at the Great Barrier Reef more than 50 years ago, according to a new study. The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that runoff from farms clouded the pristine waters off the Queensland coast and killed the natural branching coral species, leaving a stunted, weedy type of coral in its place. The findings suggest that decades before climate change and reef tourism, humans were disrupting the ecology of the Great Barrier Reef.
Several recent studies have shown that snorkelers and climate change kill coral, and one study found that half of the majestic Great Barrier Reef has vanished over the last 30 years. But study co-author John Pandolfi, a marine biologist at the University of Queensland Australia, wondered whether humans had been altering reef ecology for much longer.