by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Click here to view past issues
Campus News : October 2010
www.uow.edu.au University of Wollongong Campus News October 2010 7 FOCUS ON RESEARCH Fossil reef provides clues to coral's future An ancient reef found in the Pacific Ocean may provide clues to what will happen to coral when sea temperatures rise. Professor Colin Woodroffe from UOW's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences led a team of Australian and New Zealand researchers who discovered a huge 9000-year-old reef surprisingly far south at Lord Howe Island. The island 600km east of the Australian mainland has a small modern coral reef - the furthest south in the world. The discovery of the relict (fossil) reef, involving scientists working in collaboration with Geoscience Australia aboard the national research vessel Southern Surveyor, has generated widespread interest in the scientific world because rising sea temperatures are considered dangerous for coral reefs at hotter tropical latitudes. The discovery may point to future new reef growth in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres at the far southern, and northern, limits of current reefs. Lord Howe Island is the remnants of a volcanic island -- now surrounded by a shelf with about 50 metres depth of water over it. In the middle of that shelf is a ridge which researchers have now confirmed was a coral reef. Professor Woodroffe said the team used high-resolution multi-beam echo sounding to map the reef that rises to within 20-25 metres of the surface. They lowered a drill from the research ship to core the relict reef. Radiometric dating has shown that the reef thrived from about 9000 to 7000 years ago, and covered an area 20 times larger than the modern reef. The reef was drowned about 7000 years ago, probably due to abrupt sea level rise. Professor Woodroffe said that today coral reefs exist mainly in shallow seawater with sea surface temperatures greater than 18 degrees Celsius at latitudes near the equator. The relict reef shows that corals previously flourished at southern latitudes further from the equator. Professor Woodroffe said the find was significant because, as ocean temperatures warm due to climate change, many coral reefs in the tropics are threatened by coral bleaching. However, this discovery indicates that those at the latitudinal limit might expand polewards. The research team is now keen to explore whether a similar reef occurs around Balls Pyramid -- an isolated volcanic remnant that rises spectacularly from the sea about 26km south of Lord Howe -- and to determine what contributed to the demise of the fossil reef. Authors of the study included Professor Woodroffe who was Chief Scientist on the research vessel; Michelle Linklater (a fourth-year Environmental Science student at UOW who is presently applying the skills she learnt through this project in assisting the Lord Howe Island marine park revise its management plan); Associate Professor Brian Jones (UOW's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences); Brendan Brooke (Geoscience Australia, a former UOW graduate who led the GA team and co-ordinates their participation in the Marine Biodiversity Hub); Cameron Buchanan and Richard Mleczko (Geoscience Australia); David Kennedy (School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington); Quan Hua (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation); and Jian-xin Zhao (Radiogenic Isotope Facility, Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis, University of Queensland). BG Garrett predicts centre's influence Anew multi-disciplinary research centre at the University of Wollongong will play a key role in determining future government policies on sustainability and the environment, the then Federal Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett predicted in July. Mr Garrett was speaking at UOW when he launched the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER) which has been established to undertake in-depth cultural analysis of Australia's highest priority environmental issues. Cultural environmental research explores how humans interact with and understand the environment, drawing on experts in the fields of human and physical geography, science, environmental history, cultural studies and political ecology. Mr Garrett said AUSCCER brought together experts from multiple disciplines across the University who could provide evidence-based information to help governments determine the best policies to protect the environment. He said policy-makers needed this more scientific understanding of how humans interact with the environment. "For far too long the environment has been taken for granted," Mr Garrett said. "Too many natural assets have been squandered." The Minister said Australia faced a "challenge of huge proportions" in protecting the environment from the impact of human-induced climate change and other factors. "This is important work. The need for more intelligent and holistic work to be done to advise us and inform us has never been greater," he said. "By understanding the values of our environment we're better placed to preserve it. "I wish this bold new research centre at the University of Wollongong every success as you embark on your journey to provide us with the knowledge that will help us in this great task." AUSCCER is located within the multi-disciplinary School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and has been established with funding from UOW and the Australian Research Council, which is supporting the centre by funding AUSCCER Director Professor Lesley Head through an Australian Laureate Fellowship (2009-14) and Professor Chris Gibson with an ARC Future Fellowship (2010-13). The fellowships include money for postdoctoral researchers, PhD students, project support and to equip a human geography laboratory. UOW has provided space, supplementary funding and teaching replacements (both of whom are also cultural researchers) for Professor Head and Professor Gibson. Professor Head, who is a distinguished scientist with a strong background in human geography and archaeological sciences, told guests at the launch that "so called environmental problems are to a large extent people problems". Federal Minister Peter Garrett with Professor Chris Gibson (left), Professor Lesley Head and Australian Research Council representative Dr David Christie at the launch of the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER) at UOW in July. Lord Howe Island, where a team of scientists led by Professor Colin Woodroffe (inset) discovered an ancient coral reef that provides clues to how coral reefs will cope with rising sea temperatures.