Sediment and the Health of the Great Barrier Reef with Dr. Peter Hairsine


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“Review: Sediment-Related Controls on the Health of the Great Barrier Reef” with Dr. Peter Hairsine.

In 2016, a catastrophic bleaching event killed off around 30% of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral. The reef has been in a precarious spot for decades, but climate change and human-caused pollution have amplified the threats to its existence. Dr. Peter Hairsine is a scientist with The Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National Univ., Canberra, Australia, working on the front lines of monitoring and researching the reef’s responses to these changes, with an ultimate goal of preserving it as one of the world’s richest and most unique ecosystems.

Join us as Dr. Hairsine and I discuss the stresses that the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) currently experiences. Warming ocean temperatures, deteriorating river water quality, and tropical storms all threaten the fragile coral that houses thousands upon thousands of native species. You’ll learn the three ecosystems of reef within the GBR, as well as the sources of sediment and attached pollutants that currently feed into it.

Also in the episode:

  • Why is the reef considered a “nutrient desert”? Why is that a good thing?
  • What is a bleaching event? Why does it happen?
  • How does a “plague” of starfish occur?
  • How do reservoirs help trap sediment before it can reach the reef?
  • What is an evidence based way of prioritizing the locations where rehabilitation money should be spent?

If you would like more information about this topic, today’s paper is available here:

This paper is always freely available.

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If you would like to reach out to Peter, you can find him here:


CEU Quiz:

Mentioned around 6:30 in the interview: De’ath, G., Fabricius, K.E., Sweatman, H. and Puotinen, M., 2012. The 27–year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, p.201208909.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Australian Institute of Marine Science:

The Australian Government’s Reef Trust:

Queensland Government Reef Water Quality Improvement Plan:

Fighting the crown-of-thorns foe video:

Crown of Thorns Starfish video:

Field, Lab, Earth is copyrighted to the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America.

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