University of Queensland tackles coral bleaching

A PIONEERING international study has found climate geoengineering might be the only way to save coral reefs from destructive mass bleaching.

University of Queensland professor Peter Mumby said rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification caused by higher atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide left coral reef ecosystems increasingly under threat.

But researchers believe a geoengineering technique called Solar Radiation Management could help limit rising sea surface temperatures.

The method involves injecting gas into the stratosphere to form microscopic particles that reflect some of the sun's energy.

"We find that the benefits of SRM, over the standard CO2 reduction scenario, are dependent on the sensitivity of corals to changes in seawater acidity," Professor Mumby said.

"Resolving this sensitivity remains a key priority for science."

University of Exeter professor Peter Cox said coral reefs faced a dire situation regardless of how intensively society decarbonised the economy.

"In reality there is no direct choice between conventional mitigation and climate engineering, but this study shows that we need to either accept that the loss of a large percentage of the world's reefs is inevitable or start thinking beyond conventional mitigation of CO2 emissions," Professor Cox said.

The research involved the University of Queensland, the Carnegie Institution for Science, the University of Exeter and the UK Hadley Centre. - APN NEWSDESK