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27
Feb

Satellites Show Pesticides Threat to Great Barrier Reef

(Beyond Pesticides, February 27, 2007) Pesticide run-off is polluting larger areas of the Great Barrier Reef than originally thought, leading scientists to call for better land care practices. For the first time a new series of satellite images show that sediment plumes, containing pesticides and other pollutants from Australian river systems, travel to the outer Great Barrier Reef, and beyond. Originally, it was thought that the plumes only affected the inner Great Barrier Reef Lagoon and the inner reef corals.

The images, taken during the heavy rains in far north Queensland by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s MODIS satellite, show the pollutant plumes are travelling up to 135km offshore.

Recent studies have shown agricultural chemicals are so poisonous to coral that it can prevent spawning, even when only present in minuscule amounts. This was found to consequently hinder the reef’s ability to regenerate and protect itself.

Arnold Dekker, Ph.D., a scientist with the Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), said the images would change the way scientists analysed reef pollution and that they showed land care practices needed to be improved in order to save the reef from destruction. “This is the first time it’s been really proven that this is a phenomenon that we need to start incorporating into our studies of how we manage the land and what flows from the land, and how it affects the reef,” he said.

“It’s a good example of nature being a bit more complex than we think (and) we have to start studying how often these sediments and contaminants reach the outer reefs.”

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is currently overseeing the implementation a 10-year, $40 million Reef Water Quality Protection Plan to improve land management practices. It’s a plan that Dr. Dekker believes should be supported by farmers, tourism authorities and government.

“It’s a no-brainer to say that if farmers are helped to farm as smart as possible, using as little fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides as possible, and only using what the vegetation will take up, then you will have much less run-off of this material,” he said.

Source: The Australian News

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