Farm pollution is one of the greatest blights on the Reef. It smothers corals and seagrass beds and denies them sunlight, drives crown of thorn starfish outbreaks, and makes coral both more vulnerable to bleaching and unable to recover from bleaching events.
It works like this. Nitrogen run-off from farms leads to algal blooms in Reef waters. This algae is a prime food source for starfish larvae, producing population explosions that decimate corals. In the past 30 years, we have lost half the Great Barrier Reef’s coral cover, and crown of thorns starfish were responsible for over 40% of this loss. The current outbreak, which has been building for five years, will further damage the Reef’s coral systems.
WWF believes that laws to stop farm pollution flowing into the Reef are critical to restoring its health. Ending run-off will help to arrest future crown of thorns starfish outbreaks, and enable coral gardens to recover from coral bleaching. We are also dedicated to establishing a multi-billion dollar fund to repair Reef catchments and assist farmers to adopt cleaner, more profitable practices.
Improving water quality will have multiple benefits. The ecological rewards are indisputable. It will ensure that coral is stronger in the face of global warming, coral bleaching, industrialisation and coastal development, and help to secure the future of agricultural and tourism industries.
- Without starfish outbreaks, coral cover would have increased by 24%.