Australian researchers have raised fresh concerns that a shipping disaster could harm the Great Barrier Reef, with new research revealing coal dust in seawater can kill corals and slow down the growth rate of seagrasses and fish.
“Corals exposed to the highest concentrations of coal dust died within two weeks,” said Kathryn Berry, who led the research at the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at Townsville’s James Cook University.
“Corals exposed to lower concentrations of coal lasted longer, but most of them also died after four weeks of exposure. While some fish and seagrass died from coal dust exposure, it mostly stunted their growth by half compared to clean water.”
Coal dust enters the marine environment at loading and storage facilities when it is blown or washed into the sea, during transport, and in rare shipping disasters.
The university said it hoped the results would inform management of coal shipping activities in Australia and around the world.