Contributing to the Recovery of the Great Barrier Reef

March 8, 2021

The Great Barrier Reef is fundamental to Australia’s economy, and a national icon that needs to be preserved to ensure marine resources’ ongoing sustainability.

As a Mitsubishi Corporation subsidiary, we are guided by our shareholders’ principles of considering the earth to be our most important stakeholder and are continually working towards the realisation of a sustainable society through our business activities. As part of a joint initiative supported by Earthwatch and James Cook University, we were pleased to participate in the Recovery of the Great Barrier Reef program on Magnetic Island, Queensland.

A challenging yet rewarding field of science, our Fleet Account Manager, Neil Moodley participated as a citizen scientist, assisting researchers in the coral recovery off Florence and Arthur Bays’ waters. The initiative involved 10-15 researchers and citizen scientists scuba diving and snorkelling and sharing living and cooking arrangements. Neil’s primary responsibilities were supporting reef restoration techniques, specifically removing macroalgae (i.e. sea-weeding), to reduce direct competition and open space for new coral larvae to settle. The project allowed him to learn about research, gain field skills, and help collect data.

Commenting on the importance of the trip, Neil Moodley said: “Helping the research team to gather the scientific evidence required to understand how we can preserve the Great Barrier Reef, our national treasure, was an incredibly challenging yet fulfilling opportunity. The removal of the macroalgal was hard work, it was like weeding the ocean, but it was extremely important in improving the health of the reef.

During the trip, my understanding of the reef has increased considerably, and our (human) impact on the ecosystem. Having firsthand experience seeing the impact our use of chemicals and plastics has had on the reef, I’ve already changed how my household consumes these products. Individually we can make a big difference; and collectively, we can make a massive impact.”

Coral reefs worldwide are under increasing threats from direct human activities and global climate shifts, contributing to accelerating reef deterioration rates. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is fundamental to our nation’s economy and a national icon that needs to be preserved to ensure our marine resources’ ongoing sustainability. Warming seawater temperatures, ocean acidification, and increased freshwater inputs carrying pollutants on to these reefs all impact corals’ health, the major group of organisms that build the coral’s structural framework reefs. Understanding how these environmental stressors cause declining coral health and cover is critical for preventing coral reefs’ loss and an important step towards preserving them for future generations.

Research supported by this Earthwatch program focuses on macroalgae, which dominate the inshore reefs around Magnetic Island, and other inshore reefs throughout the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. While the direct cause of these benthic community shifts has been debated, it is clear that recent pressures necessitate more direct recovery actions for reef conservation and management to be effective in the future.

Macroalgal removal has been proposed as an active intervention measure to aid reef recovery, through reduced competition and increased available substrate for coral recruitment. The baseline information on the effects (both positive and negative) of macroalgal removal on reef community structure and ecology has not been rigorously generated. Therefore, this Earthwatch project is focused on quantifying the ecological effects of macroalgal removal on reefs surrounding Magnetic Island by assessing the abundance of coral and algal taxa, fish assemblages, coral recruitment levels, and the photobiology of coral colonies in permanent replicate quadrats with and without active algal removal.

In light of current threats to coral reef systems, it is essential to investigate active reef recovery actions’ effectiveness. This is where help was required; to provide the scientific evidence to allow reef managers to decide if macroalgal removal is a good or bad idea for improving reef health.

As we continue to operate our business according to Mitsubishi Corporations guiding principles, we will continue to support initiatives like the Earthwatch Recovery of the Great Barrier Reef, assisting scientists in gathering the research and evidence required to aid the reef’s recovery.

About Mitsubishi Corporation

Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) is a global integrated business enterprise that develops and operates businesses together with its offices and subsidiaries in approximately 90 countries and regions worldwide, as well as a global network of around 1,700 group companies.

MC has 10 Business Groups that operate across virtually every industry: Natural Gas, Industrial Materials, Petroleum & Chemicals, Mineral Resources, Industrial Infrastructure, Automotive & Mobility, Food Industry, Consumer Industry, Power Solution and Urban Development. Through these 10 Business Groups, MC’s current activities have expanded far beyond its traditional trading operations to include project development, production and manufacturing operations, working in collaboration with our trusted partners around the globe.

With an unwavering commitment to conducting business with integrity and fairness, MC remains fully dedicated to growing its businesses while contributing to a prosperous society.

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About Earthwatch

Earthwatch connects people with scientists worldwide to conduct environmental research and empowers them with the knowledge they need to conserve the planet. Since its founding in 1971, Earthwatch has been taking action to address global change through a time-tested model of citizen science and community engagement. By pairing citizen science volunteers from all sectors of society with researchers around the world, Earthwatch teams have helped to safeguard critical habitats, conserve biodiversity, and promote the sustainable use of natural resources.

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About James Cook University

Leading-edge coral reef research centre

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies undertakes world-best integrated research for sustainable use and management of coral reefs. Funded in July 2005 under the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centres of Excellence program, this prestigious research centre is headquartered at James Cook University, in Townsville. The ARC Centre is a partnership of James Cook University (JCU), the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), The Australian National University (ANU), the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), The University of Queensland (UQ) and The University of Western Australia (UWA). The ARC Centre of Excellence cements Australia’s leading contribution to coral reef sciences, and fosters stronger collaborative links between the major partners and 24 other leading institutions in nine countries. According to ISI Essential Science Indicators, four of the ARC Centre’s major research partners rank in the top 20 institutions world-wide for citations for coral reef science with JCU ranking 1st (among 1644 institutions in 103 countries). Collectively, the ARC Centre creates the world’s largest concentration of coral reef scientists. The Centre Director is Professor Graeme Cumming.  Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (UQ) and Professor Malcolm McCulloch (UWA) are the Deputy Directors. The ARC Centre of Excellence focuses on 3 research programs, each one under the stewardship of Program Leaders from James Cook University, The University of Western Australia and The University of Queensland.

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