Researchers Sound the Alarm About Rapidly Disappearing Marine Life in Australian Reefs

Researchers are concerned about marine life in Australia’s reefs. They saw that more than 500 common species have much smaller populations than they did a decade ago. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. Species can become extinct.”

The researchers studied marine life in Australia’s reefs for ten years. That research worries them because the population of more than 500 species of fish, seaweeds, corals and invertebrates has become smaller. This has happened so quickly in almost three hundred species that they are eligible for the status of endangered species.

Professor Zoe Richards, who specializes in marine invertebrates at Curtin University, says the research clearly shows that the oceans are in trouble. “The research provides much-needed evidence that population declines are befalling even the most abundant marine life. They are important players in the ecosystem. It is very frightening when they are fewer.”

The researchers have not been able to study all species and say it is very likely that the populations of those unexamined species are also declining. “We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” said Graham Edgar, a marine ecologist at the University of Tasmania. “Species can now become extinct. It’s very worrying to me. I have been counting fish and seaweed for over thirty years and immediately see the consequences of warming in the water.”

According to the researchers, the fact that the water is getting warmer is probably the main cause of the smaller population. But, unfortunately, it is also life-threatening for many species. The biggest drops were in the Great Southern Reef, where the water is supposed to be cold, and there’s a lot of kelp, a type of seaweed. A few species went even further south to colder bits, but the researchers say they can’t go any further south.

The kelp in the reefs has also been severely reduced. According to the researchers, this and the reduction of sea urchins are also important causes. Kelp is very nutritious for other marine life. “The reduction in sea urchins has also created an additional problem, as they are food for larger fish, which in turn have less food,” said John Turnbell, a marine ecologist at the University of Sydney.

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