OCT 28, 2019 05:47 PM PDT

Pesticides Plague Great Barrier Reef Waterways

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Based on parameters set by the Australian and Queensland Governments, a significant pesticide reduction target for waters entering for the Great Barrier Reef is not currently being met. In 2017, the governments set a new pesticide reduction target in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan. The new pesticide target was based on the concentrations of pesticides required to protect 99% of species at the end of all catchments. This means that only 1% of aquatic species would experience some adverse effects from pesticides, and those effects do not necessarily include death.

Researchers from the University of Queensland, Australia (UQ) and the Queensland Department of Environment and Science recently spoke to UQ reporters about study results that were published in August’s Reef Water Quality Report Card (2017-2018). They shared that overall, only 97% of aquatic species are currently protected across the entire Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area (GBRCA). Their assessment only accounts for pesticides and herbicides and does not include fungicides.

Their results also showed significant differences between the natural resource management regions, ranging from 71 to 99%. Only one of the six natural resource management regions that are part of the GBRCA—the Cape York region—is meeting the proper target. According to the report, “this translates to 43% of the major catchments already meeting the pesticide target.” Knowing which regions are not currently meeting or nearing the reduction target is useful to all stakeholders in a given region. Two major catchments face a high risk from pesticides and two major catchments face a very high risk from pesticides.

These results were obtained by examining the combined toxicity of 22 of the most common pesticides found in waterways that reach the Great Barrier Reef. Previously, individual pesticides were assessed. The combined toxicity will prove more helpful to gauge the actual risk imposed on aquatic species in the regions. According to School or Earth and Environmental Sciences’ Associate Professor Michael Warne, “Difference pesticides affect different organisms, for example, herbicides will affect organisms that photosynthesize—such as seagrass, corals, mangroves, and algae—while insecticides affect insect larvae in freshwater and crustaceans.”

The video below, from Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan website, demonstrates how runoff from farms is monitored in catchments.

Sources: UQ, Reef Water Quality Report Card

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
DEC 12, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
DEC 12, 2019
The Invisible Killers in Your Home
Do you know a mist of air freshener or the burning of a deliciously-scented candle in your home is a "sweet" and a slow poison to you and your loved ones....
DEC 12, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 12, 2019
Greenland's Summer Melt Helps Scientists Track Sea Level Rise
This summer, the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced a significant melting event not seen since 2002, mainly due to the heatwave that swept through most of Eur...
DEC 12, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 12, 2019
The Amazon is Still Burning
Although other crises may be dominating international news headlines, the Amazon rainforest is still burning. The Wall Street Journal stated that more than...
DEC 12, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 12, 2019
The Penguin Life Isn't Always Easy
Mother nature isn’t kind to wildlife; many assume their position as either the prey or the predator depending on the cards they’re dealt. Unfor...
DEC 12, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 12, 2019
Earthworms all over the world
Did you ever dig for earthworms when you were a kid? Chances are you’ve had some sort of contact with these critters, whether it was through using th...
DEC 12, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 12, 2019
A new way to capture nitrogen dioxide
A research team led by scientists from The University of Manchester has figured out a new way of making toxic pollutants helpful. The system uses the nitro...
Loading Comments...