THROMBOLITES

These beauties are called thrombolites. Rare. Ten Thousand years old. And critically endangered.

This is one of the unsung wonders of the world and here we have it right in the middle of our west australia and hardly anyone knows it's here

Laurie Snell, Peter Wahlsten and Hillary Wheater are members of Fragyle - a conservation group keeping a careful eye on these treasures at Lake Clifton, south of Mandurah.

In the bottom of all these lakes are these tiny little microbes who have somehow or other managed to find a way of sifting out the calcium from the water and making themselves nice little houses from this calcium

There are plans to build a new city near here. Four thousand homes. Shops. More roads. The fear, that development, coupled with climate change could prove devastating.

They grow in the least salty inland lake, about twenty k's away from this.

Mandurah's beaches... the jewel in the crown of this, the fastest growing regional city in the country. But experts have also identified the coast between Mandurah and Bunbury as being the section of the south west most susceptible to coastal erosion as a result of climate change.

The coast is very sensitive to small changes of sea level , so you can look at 10's of metres of erosion occuring from only a few metres of sea level change

Robert Kay has a doctorate in the environmental science of beaches. Worked with the United Nations on climate change.

Dr Kay is now consulting to the city of Mandurah.

This region has a number of low lying areas, it also has a number of sensitive, open ocean coast lines as well that need to be looked at very carefully

SEA LEVELS ARE CURRENTLY RISING 3 MM A YEAR, THAT MIGHTN'T SOUND MUCH BUT FOR EVERY CENTIMETRE THE OCEAN GOES UP, WE LOSE 1 METRE OF BEACH

I think we've reached the tipping point in the last year and that's understandable , given that maps are frequently published that show parts of us underwater

Mandurah Mayor Paddi Creevey..

With the impacts of climate change, the water level rising , the storm surges and all the things that we know will be part of that phenomena, what we need to do is work out what will be the best way to build in Mandurah so that the people into the future will have some certainty cos the decisions we make now , that building product will last 30,50 years into the future, so we want to get that right

Dr Kay says how we develop these threatened coastal areas needs a longer term view. Here at Halls Head, old planning vs new, this reserve a good buffer against rising sea levels. As time goes on, ritzy homes on the canals closer to town, mightn't be washed away but they could be at greater threat.

We;'re talking about a change in risk to the extent of flooding that could occur in the future 3.18 but if we do nothing, the water is here now, how long until it gets to there? well the latest figures coming out internationally are between 20 and 60 cm of sea level rise by the end of the century so from here which is about where the tide is now, you'd probably be look between this step and the second step by 2100

This is not something we can take lightly and we really need to be looking at the implications of things for the west australian coast line

Sustainability expert Bill Grace

Some of the other implications of climate change are more intense storms, there's even some conjecture that the south west of wa will be more affected by cyclones, so if you get sea level rise acted together with storm surges from major storm events, then those are the kinds of situations that will lead potentially to coastal erosion.

Everything I read about the climate change and rising sea levels seems to be bringing the crunch time so to speak down to within decades

It's the unknown that worries many. The fear that we simply don't know how much beach climate change will steal - nor what impact development - added to global warming - will have on the other creatures in the environment, like these rare thrombolites.

Ralph Sarich's Cape Bouvard is one of the companies seeking to develop in the Lake Clifton area. Spokesman Peter van Gent says the company's "conscious of global warming , claiming Clifton Beach will be a world class example of a self sustaining community." He claims the company's working with authorities to ensure the "environmental values of the property as well as Lake Clifton will be not lost".

The Mandurah Mayor says achieving a safe balance for future generations is the goal.

We understand that we are the custodians of the oldest life form on earth and we don't want that very precious species to be damaged on our watch we also know that we have some magnificent values in terms of the environment and the coast line that we want to make sure are understood and hopefully respected

For more information

contact:

Fragyle

P.O Box 232

Waroona 6215

fragyle@oceanbroadband.net

0419 044 085

FRAGYLE ( Friends of RAMSAR Action Group for the Yalgorup Lakes Environment)