Marine life heading for new home

NORTHERN NSW will become home to large populations of marine life fleeing the Great Barrier Reef in search of cooler waters, a local researcher has said.

Southern Cross University's  Professor Peter Harrison is part of the expert collaborative effort that recently produced the Coffs Harbour Subtropical Reefs Declaration.

The declaration urges the community to protect reefs south of the Great Barrier Reef as they will inevitably become the habitats for many migrating marine animals.

Prof Harrison said the ocean’s rising temperatures could not be ignored.

“We know that the sea temperatures are going to rise here faster than in other places and it is really important to have the science and networks in place so we can fully understand it and know how we are going to deal with it in thefuture,” he said.

“One of the driving forces behind this is that the Northern NSW environment is a climate change hot spot, which means the increase in sea temperatures are high and we are likely to see a change in the marine environment.”

Prof Harrison predicted marine life affected by rising water temperatures in the North Coast region would also migrate further south in search of cooler temperatures.

But not all Great Barrier Reef marine species will be able to adapt to this region’s marine environment.

“What we do have is some tropical species that come down in the East Australian Current from the Great Barrier Reef that are viable breeding populations,” he said.

“They (local reefs) do serve as an important refuge for some species, but not all will be able to survive here, it’s a bit cool for some.”

Prof Harrison also warns the combination of human population growth and climate change could have a significant impact on our marine environment.

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