There is a huge amount of information available about coral reef health and in particular the mass coral bleaching events that have occurred over the past two years. Two of my previous posts are linked below, but if you scroll to the bottom of the page there are a range of other articles, reports and websites regarding coral bleaching that you might find useful.
Mass coral bleaching events
Coral bleaching - reef resilience
Students should define the following key terms:
- natural selection
Answer the questions below. Conduct internet research to find articles and reports which support your answers.
Coral bleaching - GBRMPA
Coral bleaching and the Great Barrier Reef - ARC CoE
Coral bleaching: Extreme heat pushes parts of the Great Barrier Reef beyond recovery - ABC
Coral bleaching events - AIMS
Great Barrier Reef: a "hopping hotspot" - Australian Geographic
The changes in temperature and associated bleaching are resulting in a different mix of species on the reef. This will impact reefs in the long term.
Loss of species
Fish, whales, dolphins, sharks, rays and the many other organisms found in reefs rely on the complexity of the ecosystem for survival. Some fish rely on the colour of the corals for camoflauge and the structure of the coral for hiding. Many organisms are unable to carry out normal functions and processes as a result of the increased ocean acidification associated with climate change. Shellfish are less able to create their shells due to increased pH. Slow growing corals will take 100-200 years to recover, meaning that the reef will not exist in the form that we have known it in the past.
Dispersal of spawn
Ocean warming impacts on the dispersal or coral spawn (eggs). Increased ocean temperatures result in a decline in the dispersal distance of coral spawn from the origin (parent coral) to the destination site. This change in dispersal patterns can impact on species' distribution, abundance or corals in particular areas and genetic diversity across reefs. Changes to dispersal patterns can also impact on the connectivity (interconnections) between different areas of the reef by limiting the areas of reef that particular coral species are located.
Poleward shift of species
Ocean warming can also result in a poleward shift of species from tropical zones to more temperate zones. Warmer waters are found further from the tropics and species are able to take advantage by increasing their range.
In Western Australia, a species of wrasse - cheorodon rebuscens has started to shift its range with displacement of recruits south of its usual habitat. There is evidence of high recruitment at the temperate edge and no recruitment at the tropical edge. The range shift provides limited expansion opportunities, reducing resilience of the species.
Irukandji are migrating further south on the Great Barrier Reef as a result of warmer waters and are also having longer seasons in other areas. There have been anecdotal reports of increases in reports of stinging and hospitalisations on islands within the Great Barrier Reef (e.g Fitzroy Island) and snorkellers are being strongly advised to wear stinger suits outside of usual peak Irukandji seasons. Irukandji and associated stingings have also been reported on western side of the southern tip of Frazer Island where they haven't previously been found.
Following bleaching events or even natural disasters, corals can become overgrown with algae, making it difficult for coral recruits to settle and grow. The mix species on a reef can impact on how resilient that particular reefs is. For example in Moorea in French Polynesia experienced high coral mortality in the 1980s. Recovery of the reef was enabled in part as a result of grazing fish such as parrot fish removing some of the algae in the process of eating corals. In this way the biodiversity of the reef contributed to high levels of resilience on the reef in comparison to some other reefs globally. The scale of the bleaching on GBR make it unlikely that these types of natural processes will have much of an impact on recovery.
Below: A parrot fish on the outer reef, 2015.
I had the pleasure of hearing Professor Terry Hughes present as part of the Sydney Ideas talks being run by the University of Sydney. Professor Hughes is Centre Director at the ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. I use the term "pleasure" because I am a big fan of his work, and think that some of the visual representations that he has created have been incredibly powerful in explaining coral bleaching to students, but actually the information presented was really quite depressing.
Image left: Photograph of bleached corals at Fitzroy Island April 2017.
Hughes described some of the main drivers of degradation of coral reefs: pollution, overfishing and climate change. He explained how overfishing had resulted in the reduction of stock sizes for different species in the past century, how pollution from inland activities resulted in coral mortalities and encroachment of different ecosystems like mudflats in areas previously thriving with corals. He went on to say that the scale and extent of these changes were being dwarfed by the immediate and irreparable changes being wrought by back to back bleaching events.
Below right: Bleached coral on Fitzroy Island April 2017.
Mass bleaching events have occurred in both 2016 and 2017 as a result of increased ocean temperatures. The bleaching is as a result of corals expelling their symbiotic algae. Coral bleaching tends to occur after the summer temperature maximum, and relates to where the hottest water is. In 2016 coral bleaching severely bleached the northern third of the Great Barrier Reef, the middle section was bleached to a lesser extent, but still quite severely, while the bottom third of the reef largely escaped bleaching in 2016. This was established by the surveying of 1160 reefs through 9000km of aerial surveys, and 75 hours of flying. The 2017 bleaching event impacted the central section of the GBR, while the bottom third is again largely unbleached. Cycle Debbie, a chance weather event, lowered temperatures in the southern part of the reef, which contributed to reducing bleaching in this section. The combination of both the 2016 and 2017 bleaching events has been extremely damaging.
There have been reports that the recent cyclone that affected Queensland, Cyclone Debbie may play a role in reducing the impact of coral bleaching. It was reported in the Cairns Post that the cyclone would reduce ocean temperatures, bring cooler waters to the surface and increase cloud cover, thus reducing bleaching, providing stressed corals with an opportunity to recover. The Cairns Post reported that temperatures off Lizard Island had dropped by three degrees and that this would reduce the severity of bleaching. It also provided quotes from a free diver describing the amazing colours and marine life of the outer reef. In reality, as already stated Lizard Island and the top third of the Great Barrier Reef were already severely affected by bleaching in 2016 (well before Cyclone Debbie) and were again affected in 2017. In any case, the path of the cyclone was too far south to have any real impact on areas severely affected by bleaching.
Will the Great Barrier Reef recover?
There is a narrow opportunity for limited recovery, but the Great Barrier Reef as we know it (complexity, extent, etc) is already dead in many areas. It will continue to exist but with reduced biodiversity.
Any real opportunities to protect the reef as it remains is reliant on halting temperature increases and stabilising the climate through reducing reliance on fossil fuels. With negotiations underway between the Australian Government and Adani for for the creation of the Marmichael mines this seems highly unlikely.
For more detail on coral bleaching see my article in this term's GTA NSW HSC edition of the Bulletin.
Symbiosis is a long term relationship between two organisms. There are three types of symbiotic relationship: mutualism (where both organisms benefit), commensalism (where one species benefits, but there is no benefit or harm to the other species), and parasitism (where one organism benefits tot he detriment of the other). There are many examples of symbiosis on coral reefs.
Corals and zoozanthallae
The relationship between the corals and the zoozanthallae is beneficial to both. Corals provide the zoozanthallae with an environment suitable for survival. It is moist and the coral's waste gives energy to the zoozanthallae. Through the process of photosynthesis the zoozanthallae produce compounds that the coral use for food.
Clownfish and Sea Anemones
The Sea Anemones have tentacles with stinging cells. These stinging cells kill many organisms and it is in this way the anemones get their food. Clownfish hide in amongst the tentacles of the Sea Anemone, but are not harmed by them. In this way the clownfish are protected from other predators. Occasionally the Clownfish will catch food for the Sea Anemone.
Sharks and Remoras
Sharks sometimes get parasites which live on the external surface of the shark. Remoras are cleaner fish, and they attach themselves to the shark and kill the parasites. When the shark feeds the Remora are able to eat the scraps from the feed.
Watch the videos below, and take notes about the following symbiotic relationships:
- Christmas tree worms and porites corals
- Coral shrimps and corals
- Goby shrimp and Hawaiian Shrimp Goby
- Cleaner Wrasse and cleaning stations
•Coral Reefs support a large number of plants and animals.
•Coral Reefs are built by millions of tiny animals called polyps.
•Some coral polyp species receive more than 60% of their food from algae.
•Each coral colony begins life as a single polyp, which then reproduces itself as a single polyp, which then reproduces itself by budding or by dividing.
Types of coral reefs
There are eight main categories of corals: branching, corals with meandering ridges and valleys, massive or thick colonies, thin plates and crusts, solitary/isolated/free-living corals, coral with large, daytime expanded polyps, column corals and blue/fir/organ pipe/lace corals. Some examples of coral are found below:
Where are coral reefs found?
Special conditions are needed for reef-building corals. Coral reefs will only grow in waters warmer than 18oC, and no deeper than 50metres. Therefore coral reefs are limited to clear, shallow tropical seas found either side of the equator. Corals may not develop properly in waters that receive freshwater runoff or sediments from rivers.
Stage 5 Geography - Changing Places
In the previous 7-10 syllabus in Environment Issues there was a section of content where students were asked to investigate individual, groups and government responses to an issue. In the new NSW syllabus this has been removed. However, in Stage 4 Changing Places the issue of WestConnex protests (or some other protests) can be used to address the inquiry questions:
Students can examine transport networks as both a cause and consequence of urbanisation (see previous post - WestConnex - Sydney, Sustainability and Transport)
Students can also use it to examine the following content dot points:
Below: The St Peters West Connex site.
Students can do this through the lense of community protests to examine how different groups and individuals perceive how WestConnex (both a consequence of and a response to urbanisation - i.e a response to traffic congestion, the need for transport infrastructure) impacts their community and/or environment. In the previous syllabus there was a lot of scope to do activities such as mock council meetings, mock letters to Members of Parliament, etc. A simple search on Youtube brings up many recorded meetings regarding the project. This is an ideal scenario to use in class to reenact (or participate in) this process.
While NESA/BOSTES has not completed a rewrite of the Civics and Citizenship Australian Curriculum, we can assume it will be relatively similar based on the rewrites of 7-10 History and Geography. In Civics and Citizenship (AC) students examine how citizens participate in direct action and lobbying (Year 8) and how and why individuals and groups participate in and contribute to civic life (Year 9). This provides a perfect example to explore these kinds issues and to build on student knowledge in Civics and Citizenship.
Stage 6 Geography - Urban Places/Urban Dynamics
In a previous post I wrote about how WestConnex could be used as a way of exploring growth, development, future trends and ecological sustainability for a Sydney case study in the urban dynamics section of the HSC course. Another way this issue could be used in this course would be to use it to explore the culture of place of a suburb like Haberfield. There have been a variety of articles regarding the nature of the suburb in terms of heritage architecture, noise, and street life, and how this has and will change as a result of WestConnex. There are also a number of articles regarding the development site at St Peters and the removal of established trees on Sydney Park.
This could also be used as a way to ask problematic questions such as:
- What is the cost of development?,
- What kind of Sydney do we really want?
- Do the benefits to the city/commuters outweigh the costs to others?
- Will the project really releive traffic in the long term?
Below is a list of links to articles and websites related to WestConnex protests. You will notice that some of these are from media outlets such as Green Left Weekly and Alt Media. In a previous post on WestConnex most of the links I provided were government websites. The two posts together provide a more balanced approach to the issue and any lesson to students should include a range of perspectives and encouraging students to do their own analysis and make their own conclusions.
WestConnex: Protesters clash with Police over 800 tree-deaths
Protesting businesses in Newtown and Enmore stick it to WestConnex
Haberfield homes acquired for building of WestConnex
Three month closure of Ramsay Street Haberfield
Talking WestConnex and Mike Baird ignoring compulsory aquisition reforms
WestConnex private contractors sell items from heritage homes ahead of demolition
Clover Moore supports protesters at 24-hour-a-day camping blockade...
WestConnex protesters arrested as Sydney Park trees come down.
Protesters Clash with WestConnex workers
How the 15.4b WestConnex will affect Sydney residents
Baird's new protest laws used against WestConnex protesters
Protests grow over WestConnex
WestConnex Action Group
The Spirit of Anzac is a touring exhibition featuring genuine artefacts and stories. To promote the tour the Australian War Memorial and the Australian Government have sent out packages to schools of about 10 Google Cardboard head sets in boxes. You can download the Spirit of Anzac 360 Explorer App from the App Store or Google Play.
The actual headset is already made when it arrives and is packaged within a cover to protect the set. It is quite robust (a little more sturdy than the Google Cardboard sets I have purchased from Ebay before and discusses in previous posts). The lenses are quite large, which will enhance the viewer experience, and some additional velcro and padding should also add to the experience.
The App provides an interactive tour of the displays at the Spirit of Anzac exhibition. Students can focus on a particular image and information pops up to explain the display. This isn't as immersive as some other Google Cardboard apps that I have reviewed, but given that it is being sent to schools for free and that the app is free it would be a useful and interesting way to engage students with the displays prior to a visit.
The exhibition is showing at:
Explore The Spirit of Anzac - What to Expect
Access the Spirit of Anzac Google Cardboard User Guide
Some other options of Google Cardboard/Virtual Reality apps that you might like to look at are:
War of Words VR
This VR experience uses the Seigfried Sassoon poem "The Kiss" as the basis of the experience. It is an animated experience created by BBC Arts. It promotes the feature-length documentary War of Words - Soldier-poets of the Somme.
Trench Experience enables the user to experience an authentic trench from world War I. This is like a virtual museum.
Diggers Trench VR
This VR experience is only available with Oculus Rift - not Google Cardboard. However, I imagine that as Google Cardboard begins to be used more that this will be the type of experiences that we can expect more of. This is more story based. As a new recruit you experience life in the tranches and are able to influence some of the events that unfold in the story.
Changing Places (Year 9)
The Changing Places topic requires students to explain processes and influences that form and transform places and environments (GE5-2) and to assess management strategies for places and environments for their sustainability (GE5-5). The topic requires students to examine urbanisation, the impact of migration and strategies to address change in urban places and how they enhance sustainability.
As a part of examining the causes and consequences of urbanisation, students will have investigated spatial distribution patterns of urbanisation (for example the influence of transport corridors), and the social, economic and environmental consequences of urbanisation (this could include traffic congestion, costs of tolls or costs of constructing new infrastructure, average times people spend commuting to work, the impact of car exhaust on air quality). In examining urban settlement patterns students will specifically address the impact of transportation networks in Australian and another country to explain differences in urban concentrations. While there is scope to deal with a range of issues and influences related to urbanisation and urban settlement, there is certainly an opportunity to develop a unit of work that develops students’ understanding in car dependence, traffic congestion, public transport, road networks, etc. to lead them to be able to examine this issue of the WestConnex development from a range of perspectives and with detailed background knowledge.
In the last part of the Changing Places topic students investigate the management and planning of Australia’s urban future, including Australia’s population projections, implications for growth and sustainability, strategies to create sustainable urban places and ways for individuals and groups to become involved. WestConnex provides a great case study to examine this. Obviously you need to address the points at the national scale, but the WestConnex project impacts on such a large are of Sydney that you might find that many of your students are already engaged with (or at least aware of) the project in some way.
Urban Places/ Urban Dynamics (Year 12)
If you choose to do Sydney as a large city case study for Urban Places the WestConnex project could also tie into the - growth, development, future trends and ecological sustainability dot point.
The risk of covering this as a case study is the difficulty in maintaining an apolitical discussion of the issues. It is important to provide a whole range of perspectives and interpretations to develop problematic knowledge and higher order thinking, but how do you direct the discussions to ensure that the focus of the lesson is on the content and not the politics? Some lesson possibilities:
Population Growth & Transport
As a group, students examine the current population projections for Sydney and consider the effectiveness of current transport infrastructure (include roads, rail, light rail, ferries, etc), taking into account commute times and traffic congestion. Suggest a range of different strategies to address transport issues in Sydney. Discuss with your group the pros and cons of each strategy. Devise a plan that you would put in place if you were Premier. Present your alternate plan to the class (include annotated maps, descriptions justifying your choices, references to economic, social and environmental sustainability of your choices).
West Connex & Sustainability
Examine the WestConnex development from a range of different perspectives. Assess the project for economic, social and environmental sustainability. Include maps showing where the WestConnex project is located and the changes to landuse along the corridor (for example, aquisitions and demolitions, new open spaces). What might you change to improve the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the project?
Individual and community action
Individually, examine the ways that individuals and communities have contributed to the political process and discussions about the WestConnex project. Write a paragraph about 5 actions taken by individuals and communities. Do you think these have been effective? Do you think these actions are justified? What other actions could individuals or communities take?
The NSW Government has put out a range of resources to promote the WestConnex, including an educational package. These provide some basic information
The Inner West Council also has a large number available on their website including meeting minutes, media releases, and an online petition.
ABC: WestConnex environmental impact statement projects less traffic, less pollution once M4 East completed.
UNSW - West Connex – M4 East – Submission by the Healthy Built Environments Program (UNSW)
West Connex Action Group
There have been many protests regarding the WestConnex. Another source of information is the WestConnex Action Group website.
WestConnex Action Group facebook page
See my other West Connex post: WestConnex - Protest Movements and Impacts
Social media is a tool that students are very familiar with and use for a variety of personal and social purposes. If we can tap into students' enthusiasm for and ability to use social media we can easily harness it to enhance student learning. Recent coral bleaching events have been discussed widely on twitter by experts and organisations that study and work to protect coral reefs.
Some examples of experts and organisations to follow on twitter:
Twitter lesson 1
Investigate the differences in people’s views about the causes of environmental issues such as coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Take screenshots of a range of different views about this issue. Refer to the information about environmental worldviews from previous lessons. Make an inference about the environmental worldview that each person holds. Why do you think this? Justify your answers.
What are your thoughts and opinions about this issue? How do your thoughts reflect your own environmental worldview?
Twitter lesson 2
Create a Storify that shows the progress of discussions, research, campaigns and decisions related to the management of a coral reef. Use the tweets and the links contained in them as a starting point for a geographical inquiry. This may help you to pose questions, planning an investigation, collecting secondary information.
In doing so, consider:
Video conferencing tools:
Benefits of videoconferencing:
Providers for video conferencing:
Once you have done a few organised sessions and feel comfortable using the technology, you will be able to make connections with people and organise your own presenters.
Video Conference lesson
Research the work of the organisation or person that will be running the videoconference.
Provide a brief summary of the work of the organisation or person.
Formulate a number of questions that you can ask to the person during the videoconference. These may relate to the work of your class as a whole or your own geographical inquiry.
As a class collect the questions that have been designed and remove any duplicates. It may be beneficial to send the questions to your presenter ahead of the video conference.
Deputy Principal at a Sydney high school. Coordinating author of the new Geoactive book series.
7-10 Geography pages have been retired due to the introduction of the new syllabus. The above links relate to current NSW syllabuses. All Commerce resources have been moved onto this main site (search Commerce below).