The world's largest coral reef system has witnessed massive coral bleaching caused by rises in water temperatures and ocean acidity levels. Now, the Australian government is planning to breed more resilient coral.
The Australian government is planning to spend AU$500 million (US$380 million, €312 million) to help restore and protect the endangered Great Barrier Reef, Australian broadcaster ABC reported Sunday.
"This is the single largest investment in restoration and management in Australia's history," Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg told ABC.
Frydenberg said the money would be spent on improving water quality, tackling the crown-of-thorns starfish, and helping develop new species of coral that are more resilient to warmer temperatures.
The Great Barrier Reef, a coral reef system larger than Italy, is severely endangered as a result of global warming. Rising water temperatures coupled with the acidification of the ocean have caused catastrophic damage to its coral.
A report published earlier this month showed that nearly a third of coral in the 2,300-kilometer-long (1,430-mile) reef system died during a nine-month period in 2016 following an extended heatwave.
'Preserve it for future generations'
The corals have also been hit by a crown-of-thorns starfish epidemic. The starfish species is a natural predator of the coral and has done massive damage over the past few decades.
The planned expenditure will be part of the budget to be unveiled next week.
A part of the funding will go towards convincing farmers to reduce the amount of harmful substances such as sediment and pesticides flowing into the reef, Frydenberg said.
"The reef supports some 64,000 jobs, its worth to the economy is over AU$6 billion and it attracts more than 2 million visitors a year," Frydenberg told ABC.
"It's a natural and national and international icon and that is why we're so determined to preserve it for future generations," he said.