STUDYING THE IMPACTS AND RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH CLIMATE CHANGE IN SOUTH PACIFIC
A challenge facing any scientific research in the South Pacific region is the area's inaccessibility. We have approached several organisations doing leading research work and offered our vessel as a platform for data collection. We now have scientific collaborations in the area of coral health, plastics pollution, social resilience and infrastructure risk from sea level rise.
Coral Bleaching post El Nino
We are collaborating with UTS’s Climate Change Cluster (C3) group to study the extent of coral bleaching in a wide arc through the South Pacific. Our timing is of major significance due to the current bleaching event happening throughout these areas as a result of the strong El Nino.
We will gather high quality imagery and log sea temperature and light as we travel, to build an extensive raw data bank for Dr David Sugget and Dr Emma Camp, whose work focusses on the genetic qualities of resilient coral. Their work has been received much media attention recently due to the arrival of extensive coral bleaching in the northern Great Barrier Reef.
Find more info on UTS' Climate Change Cluster and Dave Suggett's coral research here
The Cross Dependency Initiative - XDI Pacific
The Cross Dependency Initiative (XDI) is an innovative project that computes risk and maps the interdependencies of critical infrastructure, such as power plants, communications systems and water supplies. The problem of one systems’ failure causing other systems to fail is being seen repeatedly around the world in emergency situations such as cyclones. This project models vulnerabilities to the increasing effects of extreme weather due to climate change, so that impacts can be contained and utilities can collaborate in adaptation measures.
Using Climate Risks’ patented AdaptInfrastructure risk engines, XDI Pacific will involve an extensive survey of elevation data and location information on critical infrastructure in selected island nations. This project is particularly relevant in the light of recent research showing the mobility of reef structures, highlighting the vulnerability of built environments to sea level rise on low lying islands with communities and infrastructure that cannot be moved without great expense.
Climate Risk is an Australian climate change adaptation consultancy and software developer and the expedition's major sponsor. More information can be found on Climate Risk's website.
Marine Plastic - upstream solutions
The growing concern and sadness over plastic litter impact on the oceans and marine wildlife has led to the establishment of many organisations conducting excellent work. Clean up is a notable and worthy cause but before enduring change can be made, the problem needs more understanding. What comprises marine litter in different parts of the world? Where is the litter coming from? How then can we prevent that litter being released into the oceans?
Tangaroa Blue Foundation gathers data on marine litter content and source, and coordinates a centralised database of this information for public use. We have teamed up with Tangaroa Blue to gather data in South Pacific.
We will conduct beach clean ups in 100m sections of beaches, then catalogue and report the nature of the litter. This will be added to the Australian Marine Debris Database for public access from users such as CSIRO and academic research bodies.
Bottles have washed up on far north Queensland beaches that are not sold in Australia. We will survey products being sold in various pacific countries (eg: washing liquid, drink bottles) to help Tarangaroa Blue Foundation better understand the flow of rubbish around the Pacific Ocean.
The growing intensity and severity of climate change impacts will have implications we are only just beginning to consider. The physical impacts are easier to foresee (such as cyclones affecting critical infrastructure or sea level rise compromising water tables in atoll countries), however the social and cultural impacts are harder to anticipate and more difficult to measure. We will distribute a survey designed by the University of Technology, Sydney regarding the significance of coral in the lives of pacific peoples, helping to understand the implications for these communities of widespread coral bleaching and die-off. Additionally, we will endeavour to gather anecdotal information as we travel regarding the implications of climate change in these communities and countries.