CRISIS POINT: The future of rainforests like our own Bruxner Park pictured above, is dependent on coral reefs say SCU researchers.
CRISIS POINT: The future of rainforests like our own Bruxner Park pictured above, is dependent on coral reefs say SCU researchers. BRUCE THOMAS

Coral dies so do rainforests

RAINFORESTS could wither on the East Coast in years to come due to a lack of rainfall, if warmer ocean temperatures continue to kill off coral reefs producing natural cloud seeding chemicals.

That’s the dire prediction made by Associate Professor Graham Jones, a marine researcher with Southern Cross University’s School of Environmental Science.

For 20 years, Professor Jones has researched how coral produces a natural gas called dimethyl sulphide (DMS), which forms rain clouds over the ocean.

“It is no coincidence that much of Australia’s rainforest lies adjacent to the northernmost reefs,” Professor Jones said.

“Unlike phytoplankton in the ocean, corals produce (DMS) continuously every day, because it is essential for their normal metabolism.”

The research team has found that algae living in coral tissue give off massive amounts of DMS and when these gases reach the air, they form the basis of cloud formation.

Much of the research has focused on Northern Queensland’s rainforests, but the findings could highlight far-reaching consequences for Dorrigo’s World Heritage listed rainforest.

“In the monsoonal or wet period, the north-east winds bring in clouds that are generated from reefs in the wider western Pacific,” Professor Jones said. “When they reach the rainforests these clouds produce rainfall so the reef and the rainforest live in a type of symbiosis.”



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