World

Australia offers cash for Great Barrier Reef rescue ideas

SYDNEY: Australia is calling on the world's top scientific minds to help save the Great Barrier Reef, offering hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund research into protecting the world's largest living structure.

The Unesco World Heritage-listed reef is reeling from significant coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures linked to climate change.

The 2,300km site is also under pressure from farming run-off, development and predatory crown-of-thorns starfish, with experts warning it could be suffering irreparable damage.

$2 MILLION FUNDING

Yesterday, the Australian government announced an A$2 million (S$2.1 million) funding pot available to people with ideas on how to save the reef.

"The scale of the problem is big and big thinking is needed, but it is important to remember that solutions can come from anywhere," said Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg.

He said the money would be available to the world's "greatest scientific minds, industry and business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs".

"Solutions could focus on anything from reducing the exposure of corals to physical stressors to boosting coral regeneration rates by cultivating reef-building coral larvae that attract other important marine species," he added.

Up to A$250,000 is available for an initial feasibility stage of up to six months.

More than one proposal is expected to be accepted at this stage, the government said.

A further A$1 million will then be made available to the best solutions at the proof of concept stage, where applicants develop and test their prototypes for up to 12 months.

Unesco's World Heritage Committee last year decided not to place the Great Barrier Reef on its list of sites "in danger" despite concern over the mass coral bleaching.

The bleaching last year marked the second-straight year that the corals have been damaged by warming sea temperatures, an unprecedented occurrence that scientists said would give the invertebrate marine creatures insufficient time to fully recover. - AFP

WORLD