The country's top artists are joining forces in cyberspace in an on-line auction to raise funds for research into the Great Barrier Reef. They include 1996 Archibald Prize-winner Wendy Sharpe, Ken Done, Judy Cassab, Davide Allen, Marianne Garriok, Brett Leigh Dicks, Rosie Tainish and several others. Internet users can view their works before making bids via the Net. The auction comes in the wake of warnings from scientists that unless more funding is ploughed into research, the Great Barrier Reef could face serious environmental challenges from tourism and industry in the next decade. 'Industries like tourism and fishing are netting over A$1 billion [HK$6 billion] every year from the reef and pressure on it is expanding,' said Dr Ove Hoegh-Goldbers of the Coral Reef Research Institute. 'We still don't know the answers to some fundamental questions, such as why reefs may be affected by human activity. We need to know more but basic funding support is dwindling.' International research suggests that increases in reef tourism may not be sustainable. A recent United Nations report predicted 70 per cent of the world's coral reefs might disappear by 2030. Launched from Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, the Internet Art Auction is the institute's major fund-raising initiative for 1996. Money raised will be used to ensure the institute's research station off the Queensland coast remains open. Bidding closes at midnight on Tuesday.