Scientists believe they have discovered proof that global warming has altered Tasmania's marine environment. A group of biologists from the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute has found a shallow reef extensively covered by coral at the Kent Group Marine Protected Area near Flinders Island off the north-east of Tasmania.
Coral reefs only survive in warmer waters and are usually found in tropical areas such as Queensland.
The senior biologist who discovered the reef, Neville Barrett, believes it is evidence that rising water temperatures are having an impact on the marine environment. "A lot of these corals are occasionally found in very small clumps in Bass Strait," Dr Barrett said. "It's exceptionally rare to find very extensive, pretty much 100 per cent cover areas of it south of Sydney, so it's something completely unexpected."
The CSIRO has noticed other changes, including the invasion of about 30 species of fish from warmer areas to Tasmanian waters. CSIRO senior scientist Ron Thresher says local marine species are also moving further south. "There's no doubt [there have been] major changes in the community and ecosystems down here because of these species coming down," Dr Thresher said.
There is also speculation the changes have contributed to the decline of Tasmania's kelp forests over the past few decades.