Toxic pollution from Australia floods threatens marine life



Posted on 10 January 2011  | 
Red coral, Great barrier reef, Australia.
© WWF / Natl. Archives of AustraliaEnlarge
Toxic pollution from flooded farms and towns along Australia's Queensland coast will have a disastrous impact on the Great Barrier Reef’s corals and will likely have a significant impact on dugongs,  turtles and other marine life, WWF warned today.

“In addition to the terrible costs to farmers and communities in Queensland, we will also see a major  and extremely harmful decline in water quality on the Great Barrier Reef,” said WWF spokesman Nick Heath.

Heath said the restoration of important woodlands in flood prone catchment areas of the Fitzroy  River and Murray Darling Basin would help protect communities and the marine environment from future floods.

“Today’s floods are bigger, dirtier and more dangerous from excessive tree clearing, overgrazing and  soil compaction. As a result less water infiltrates deep into the soil, increasing the size and erosive  intensity of floods,” he said.

Rebuilding

“While the current floods would still have occurred, trees and wetlands slow flood waters down and  absorb water, lessening the impact of the flood. We can better prepare for future floods by bringing  trees back into previously cleared catchment areas.”

Climate change is likely to deepen the cycle of drought and floods, with further loss of top soil  followed by bigger rainfall events, and therefore increase the damage caused by floods.

Heath said the need to rebuild farms presented an opportunity to introduce best-practice farm  design and management in reef catchment areas that would boost future profitability, better prepare  farms for flood recovery and significantly reduce the future impact of farming on the Great Barrier Reef.

“As devastating and tragic as these floods are, they also provide a chance to introduce newer and  better technologies that will reduce pollution and increase profits,” he said.

“Better management and design of our farms can reduce the risks to people, livelihoods and wildlife  and also lead to greater profits further down the track by increasing deep infiltration and soil  moisture, improved topsoil retention and therefore productivity.”

Over the past 150 years sediment inflow onto the Great Barrier Reef has increased four to five times,  and five to 10 fold for some catchments, while inorganic nitrogen and phosphorous continue to enter  the Great Barrier Reef at enhanced levels, according to the Australian Government’s Outlook  Report.


Red coral, Great barrier reef, Australia.
© WWF / Natl. Archives of Australia Enlarge

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