MORE protection is needed to reduce the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, a major international study on three World Heritage sites has revealed.
The study, published in the academic journal Science, found the local environmental protections for each region were at risk of failing for the Reef, South America's Amazon and Spain's Donana wetlands.
Researchers including Australian reef expert Professor Terry Hughes contributed to the report that showed Australia was failing in its "stewardship" of the Great Barrier Reef, despite solid scientific evidence for the need for greater protections.
While climate change was cited as the top risk to the reef's future, it was being exacerbated by poor water quality, ocean acidification, agricultural chemical run-off and dredging for port developments.
The report said local management for each World Heritage site was "worrisome" and eroding the capacity for the three regions to function normally as ecosystems.
Prof Hughes told ABC Radio on Friday there was a stark choice for the Federal Government - if coal mines planned for the Galilee Basin went ahead, protecting the reef was an "impossible task".