Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coral reefs safe after all

Hoagy will be disappointed

Reef ecosystems were able to persist through massive environmental changes imposed by sharply falling sea levels during previous ice ages, an international scientific team has found. This provides new hope for their capacity to endure the increasing human impacts forecast for the 21st century.

In the world's first study of what happened to coral reefs when ocean levels sank to their lowest recorded level – over 120 metres below today's levels – a study carried out on eight fossil reefs in Papua New Guinea's Huon Gulf region has concluded that a rich diversity of corals managed to survive, although they were different in composition to the corals under more benign conditions.

“Of course, sea levels then were falling – and today they are rising," said Professor John Pandolfi of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland. "But if we want to know how corals cope with hostile conditions, then we have to study what happens under all circumstances. “We've seen what happens to corals in the past when sea levels rose and conditions were favourable to coral growth: we wanted to see what happened when they fell and conditions were adverse. “When sea levels drop you get a catastrophic reduction in coral habitat and a loss of connectivity between reefs.

In the Huon region, the team found, coral reefs survived the hard times low of sea levels with as much richness of species – but with a different composition to what they had during the good times. “As a rule the coral colonies during the period of low sea levels were closer to the sea floor and slower-growing in comparison with times of high sea levels.” “What we have found suggests that reef systems are able to survive adverse conditions given suitable shallow rocky habitat.

"An interesting finding of this study is that complex coral ecosystems were maintained during the less optimal periods of low sea level. These may have been critical to the re-establishment of nearby reefs once environmental conditions began to improve.” “The fossil record shows that reefs have been remarkably successful in surviving large environmental disturbances.

More HERE (I have left out the propaganda and just kept the factual bits)

Journal abstract follows:

Community dynamics of Pleistocene coral reefs during alternative climatic regimes

By Danika Tager et al.

Reef ecosystems built during successive periods of Pleistocene sea level rise have shown remarkable persistence in coral community structure, but little is known of the ecological characteristics of reef communities during periods of low sea stands or sea level falls. We sampled the relative species abundance of coral, benthic foraminifera, and calcareous red algae communities from eight submerged coral reefs in the Huon Gulf, Papua New Guinea, which formed during successive sea level fall and lowstand periods over the past 416 kyr. We found that dissimilarity in coral species composition increased significantly with increasing time between reef-building events. However, neither coral diversity nor the taxonomic composition of benthic foraminifera and calcareous red algae assemblages varied significantly over time. The taxonomic composition of coral communities from lowstand reefs was significantly different from that of highstand reefs previously reported from the nearby Huon Peninsula. We interpret the community composition and temporal dynamics of lowstand reefs as a result of shifting energy regimes in the Huon Gulf, and differences between low and highstand reefs as a result of differences in the interaction between biotic and environmental factors between the Huon Gulf and Huon Peninsula. Regardless of the exact processes driving these trends, our study represents the first glimpse into the ecological dynamics of coral reefs during low sea level stands when climatic conditions for reef growth were much different and less optimal than during previously studied highstand periods.


Lack of housing will 'challenge recovery' - Reserve Bank

AUSTRALIA is facing an under-supply of housing that isn't meeting the demands of a growing population, an RBA official says. Australia is likely to devote a higher share of its GDP to housing than before, or risk a "further adjustment" in housing prices and rents to balance supply and demand.

Unlike most countries rocked by the GFC, Australia did not have an unsustainable surge in housing investment in the middle years of the 2000s resulting in over-supply of housing, the Reserve Bank's assistant governor (economics) Philip Lowe says. He said the rate of increase in homes has been below the average of the past 50 years, while population has increased at its fastest pace over the same period. "If we are to build more dwellings, we need to ensure that planning guidelines and infrastructure provision can accommodate this. This will pose challenges for all levels of government.

A second challenge was "the capacity of the economy to deal with an increase in dwelling construction at a time when investment elsewhere in the economy is also very high. "If housing construction is very strong at the same time that the resources sector is expanding, there will be competing demands for a range of skilled workers and specialised services. "Managing these competing demands and ensuring the adequate supply of workers with appropriate skills will be a challenge."

While challenges remained, three decades of reform by governments and business had honed the Australian economy to weather not just the global financial crisis of 2008, but the 1997 Asian financial crisis. He said the central lesson of the past 18 months was the importance of flexibility in the economy and economic policy to respond to crisis.

The Reserve Bank slashed interest rates from 7.5 per cent to a 50 year low of 3 per cent over seven months between September 2008 and April 2009 in response to the international debt crisis. Since then, it has raised the cash rate to 4 per cent in a series of moves that began in October 2009.

"This flexibility, though, did not just materialise out of thin air," Dr Lowe said. "Instead, it was the result of many years of policy reform and hard work by governments and business.


NSW getting tough on Muslims who do not assimilate

The reference to Muslims is not explicit but "He said the laws of Australia would now be recognised above people's cultural backgrounds" gives the game away. No Sharia

New migrants from all ethnic backgrounds will have to "demonstrate a unified commitment to Australia" under new state laws. For the first time multiculturalism legislation will also talk about "shared values" after changes were approved at a State Cabinet meeting yesterday. Until now the Community Relations and Principles of Multiculturalism Act stated all institutions and people had to "respect and make provision for the culture, language and religion of others".

Community Relations Commission chairman Stepan Kerkyasharian said the law change would create a new definition of multiculturalism. "We're not telling people to change their religion - we're not telling people to all look the same," he said. "There are some things where we have to be all the same. Those things are the way we obey the law and the way we demonstrate our commitment to Australia. "What this [change] does, it says that while we accept that Australians have different languages, backgrounds, they may speak different languages at home, they may have different religions, different ethnic groups, the bottom line is we have some common values.

"As Australians we all have a commitment to this country." He said the laws of Australia would now be recognised above people's cultural backgrounds.


Germaine Greer is an intellectual Paris Hilton

"A woman who sought attention more than revolution"

By Janet Albrechtsen

FEMINIST Germaine Greer is being lauded this week for living her beliefs. She is financially independent, alone, beholden to no one. Forty years after publishing The Female Eunuch, Greer is blissfully free. But there is a more pertinent question. Is Greer happy? If she is, she does a good job hiding it.

One of my girlfriends was very excited when, last year, she heard I was going to share the panel on ABC1's Q&A with Australia's most famous feminist. Alas, my friend pines for Gough Whitlam, so she and I were always going to have a different perspective.

That said, Greer is the author of what is regarded as a seminal feminist work, so credit where it's due, I thought. But to meet her is to encounter a grouchy old woman wedded to a bitter philosophy about men, women, love and life. Forty years on, there is simply no reason to celebrate Greer's sour feminism. Instead let us celebrate that Greer's revolution has not come to pass.

Of course, when the lights are turned on, the cameras focused and the audience awaits, Greer turns on the charm. With a voice made for the stage and a sharp wit, television producers and arts organisers love her.

Behind the scenes, Greer is a series of grunts and grumbles. Entering the ABC's make-up studio last October, I cheerily walked over to Greer and introduced myself. She replied with an inaudible grunt. A moment later, she grumbled to the make-up lady about a young relative staying with her who enjoyed watching the 1953 romantic comedy Roman Holiday. "Why would a girl watch such rubbish" she boomed. Why not? It beats the over-sexed shows my teenagers sneak in.

Then Greer grumbled around the green room where we assembled before going on air, muttering about her agent this, her agent that. More grumbling when she spotted a copy of The Australian on the coffee table in front of her. What a terrible newspaper, she said to no one in particular. Perhaps, not unreasonably, she expected the ABC to provide a copy of Green Left Weekly.

Of course, Greer is a committed Marxist whose revolution never came. So go easy on the word influential. It's true that women are far more sexually liberated now than in 1970. No doubt Greer helped remove the shackles. But Greer's thesis was much broader than her attention-seeking advice that women taste their menstrual blood to be at ease with their bodies. In the final chapter of The Female Eunuch, Revolution, she wrote that independent women should not marry, the family unit was a rotten environment to rear children, the trappings of consumerism were evil, and wearing make-up and nice clothes was wrong. Instead, women should live together in communes, sharing work and appliances, cooking to no timetable and using just a bit of kohl eyeliner for fun. "Revolution," she wrote, "is the festival of the oppressed."

Had my mother read The Female Eunuch, she -- roughly the same age as Greer -- would have laughed at this as the self-indulgent musings of a woman who sought attention more than revolution. And time would prove my mother right. Witness Greer's eager participation in those crass capitalist by-products, Big Brother UK, Big Brother's Little Brother and Big Brother's Big Mouth. Now famous for being famous, her thirst for celebrity far outstrips her influence as feminist. In a way, Greer has become the intellectual version of Paris Hilton.

Alas, like most working-class women, my mother did not read Greer's feminist bible or join the festival. Too busy working and racing home in the afternoons to care for children, women such as my mother and grandmother practised their own, quieter, form of feminism. They had no time for such ivory tower dreaming.

Even today among Greer's biggest fan base, the well-educated middle class, her vision never got off the ground. Most women still marry, have babies and believe -- with plenty of evidence to support them -- that the family unit is best for children. Most enjoy the trappings of capitalist society and recognise that capitalism has improved their lives, not to mention millions of other lives. With a make-up collection that extends beyond a kohl pencil, many are happy with those choices.

Is it possible that women revere Greer precisely because they haven't read her book? In fact, I'm guessing Greer's book is one of those books people lie about having read to sound, you know, intellectual.

If so, they haven't missed much. Reading The Female Eunuch last week was like watching a "look at moi, look at moi" scene from Kath & Kim. And that is the thing about Greer's positions through the years. They have been all about her. When she was young and sexy, she proclaimed the virtues of sex, anywhere, with anyone, anytime. There were no limits when it came to sexual love or sex without love. She was the "Saucy Feminist That Even Men Like" on the 1971 cover of Life magazine and openly admitted that during her three-week marriage in 1969 she slept with many others.

By her late 40s, Greer appeared to decide (or was it the market talking?) that her sex life was over. In an interview with Steve Chapple and David Talbot in Burning Desires: Sex in America published in 1989, Greer said she found love and sex boring. "I spent most of the best years of my life trying to get it right and I'm just delighted not to be worried by it any more. I really couldn't care less." Masturbation? "Basically dull. I think we can all agree on that . . . Doctors now prescribe it, certain proof that it's deeply dull," she said. Oral sex? "It's like being attacked by a giant snail. I prefer conversation."

By this stage of her life, Greer was looking fondly at Islamic societies and the segregation of men and women. Then, she started looking at teenage boys and the "the sperm that flows like tap water". Imagine the outcry if another woman had said that.

Greer says a lot of tosh. A sexy, sassy young woman can get away with it when people look more than they listen. Now older, not even a sharp, articulate tongue can save her from the fact she speaks no more for Australian women -- or any women -- than Barry McKenzie speaks for Australian men.

Greer is entitled to her shifting positions and failed endeavours, but having lost her interest in sex and love, she is now the killjoy spoiling everyone else's fun. If Greer is the pin-up girl for her beliefs, it's not surprising that millions of women have chosen, and will continue to choose, a very different path.


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