The Australian government unveiled a plan Sunday to try to rescue the imperiled Great Barrier Reef, pledging hundreds of millions of dollars in what would be the largest single investment for reef conservation and management in the country's history.
The fight for the reef has helped to open up a debate in Australia over the future of coal, the nation's second-largest export earner which has been blamed by scientists for causing greenhouse gases that have contributed to man-made climate change.
Although some fear that much of the damage can not be undone, John Schubert, chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, believes that the government's attention gives the reef "real hope". "We urge the government to address the cause of the problem". He commented on Twitter that "you can not "rescue" the Great Barrier Reef without cutting carbon emissions".
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The gift was symbolic - honoring USA troops' sacrifice during a legendary World War I battle and the ongoing alliance with France. The oak comes from the site where the Battle of Belleau Wood raged in northern France in June 1918.
Climate change also affected the creatures that live in the reef system.
The Great Barrier Reef is considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is the largest living structure on the planet.
A major outbreak of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish has been destroying areas of the world heritage-listed reef, prompting a major cull in January.
Critics of Australia's investment note that fighting pollution and improving water quality, managing the crown-of-thorns starfish, enforcing laws protecting the reef and researching resilience and restoration is all well and good - but none of that will stop the oceans from warming. "These funds represent an unequalled opportunity to create a legacy of hope for future generations", Schubert said in a statement.
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The Marine Park Authority will also receive an additional $42.7 million for its joint field management program over the next six years. Moreover, millions of people across the world depend on the reef for survival.
The A$500 million (US$379 million) package of funding will try and save the reef from a barrage of environmental impacts which have put its long-term viability at serious risk.
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