"We are three decades away from having a reef with no coral and less than half the species we have today. It is crunch time." says one of the co-authors.
This first comprehensive field guide is part of the mission of scientists to pass on the urgency and excitement about the issues. The hope is for the book to change the lives of school students, undergraduates and members of the public.
The Great Barrier Reef: Biology, Environment And Management, which will be launched in Queensland tomorrow, was designed to fill a massive gap between, on the one hand, beautiful coffee table-type books about the reef with magnificent photos but minimal text and, at the other extreme, highly technical scientific textbooks.
It was also born of a need to educate the next generation of science students who will be responsible for protecting the reef against the ravages of climate change, Hutchings says.
The book is aimed at students and also at anyone seeking more detail about the way the reef works. As well as teachers who bring classes to the reef and divers "who don't just dive for the sake of it but are actually interested in what they're looking at".
The three academics approached 32 of their colleagues to contribute chapters for the book. "The author list is really a cast of who's who in coral reef science in Australia. And everybody agreed that all the profits would go back into the society. Nobody said, 'Look I want to get my royalties."'
The authors also contributed all of the marvellous photographs free, minimising costs and increasing the funds to be returned to the society.
The result is a complete picture of the reef, with a difference. For example: "We didn't just want the classification of the snails on the reef. We wanted a little bit of information on that but we wanted to know what are the interesting aspects of snails on the reef, what do they actually do, what role do they play, what happens if we lose them, are there some that have really interesting sex lives? Just little snippets to get to the reader."
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