A study released on Tuesday has found that a high concentration of coal dust can quickly kill coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
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The research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science discovered coal dust could also slow the growth rate of seagrasses and fish, Xinhua news agency reported.
"Corals exposed to the highest concentrations of coal dust died within two weeks," author Kathryn Berry said.
"Corals exposed to lower concentrations of coal lasted longer, but most of them also died after four weeks of exposure."
She noted that while some fish and seagrass died from coal dust exposure, it mostly stunted their growth by half compared to clean water.
The study found coal dust entered the marine environment at loading and storage facilities, or when it is blown into the sea during transport.
Researches also noted a shipping disaster as a possible risk to the reef.
"Risks to the Great Barrier Reef posed by large coal spills depend on the probability of an accident and the potential impacts to marine life," author Andrew Negri said.
"While the likelihood of a major spill on a coral reef or seagrass meadow is low, we are now beginning to understand the likely consequences."
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Researchers hope the results will send a message to coal shipping companies in Australia and across the world.