What Is Happening To The Great Barrier Reef – A Carnival Cruise Line ship that accidentally spilled 7,000 gallons of sewage into the waters of the Great Barrier Reef is a disaster by any measure, but when you consider the full picture of the human toll on this fragile ecosystem, it’s tragically extraordinary: a study A recent study found that half of the reef’s coral reefs have died in the last two years. Another found that the reef could completely disappear in the next few decades.
So how do humans destroy such a vast natural feature? Is it too late to save?
What Is Happening To The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef has existed in some form for half a million years, but its modern incarnation has existed for some eight millennia. Sea levels rose significantly at the end of the last ice age, allowing coral reefs to grow much larger than before and reach their current extent. Today the reef stretches nearly 1,500 miles off the coast of Australia and is home to more than 2,000 species of animals. It is big enough to be seen from space.
What The Next Australian Government Must Do To Save The Great Barrier Reef
One of the world’s most beautiful and relatively accessible attractions, the Great Barrier Reef attracts millions of visitors each year. That is the first part of the problem. Heavy tourist traffic leads to disasters like accidental sewage spills in August and unexpected problems like people’s sunscreen washing up on corals, blocking them from much-needed sunlight.
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But there is a threat to this coral reef beyond the influx of tourists. In 2014, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority published a long-term plan to protect coral reefs until at least 2050, identifying four main threats: climate change, marine pollution, runoff, changes in land use coastal land and overfishing. .
In the years since that report was published, the Marine Park Authority and the Australian Government have taken steps to address many of these issues. Farms and agricultural areas have significantly reduced the use of pesticides and fertilizers and runoff to the ocean, which reduces pollution. The ports stopped dumping waste into the sea. Future commercial development projects must meet more stringent standards before construction begins. Reef animals now have additional legal protections against poaching and overfishing.
Just 2% Of The Great Barrier Reef Has Escaped Coral Bleaching Since 1998
Coral bleaching occurs when ocean warming causes corals on coral reefs to lose color and turn white. The distinctive colors of coral come from the symbiotic algae that live within the coral structure. High ocean temperatures are killing them. With the loss of algae, coral reefs lose an important food source, leaving them vulnerable to disease and starvation. In recent years, high temperatures have caused severe coral bleaching on more than half of the reef.
In addition, climate change can cause ocean acidification, which also affects reefs. The oceans can absorb carbon dioxide and remove it from the atmosphere. That sounds like good news, because we need to get CO2 out of the atmosphere, but it makes the oceans more acidic in the process. That excess acidity can leach calcium from corals, making them brittle and unable to grow. The result is similar to coral osteoporosis.
The Australian government plan makes almost no mention of climate change, and even if it did, climate change is a global problem that the Australian Marine Parks Authority cannot solve. The uncomfortable truth is that Australia could stop all pollution and fishing activities affecting reefs and corals, but still die.
A study published last year in Nature Climate Change found that even the small amount of warming that we are already experiencing, and have been experiencing for at least several decades, would likely be enough to destroy the entire Great Barrier Reef. Even under the most optimistic scenario forecast by climate scientists, the Great Barrier Reef could experience a severe bleaching event once or twice a year. At that point, it is only a matter of time before all the coral reefs are completely destroyed.
What The Great Barrier Reef Is Made Of [australia] • Exploring The Earth
Tragically, hailstorms around the world may arrive too late to protect the Great Barrier Reef, even if climate change is controlled. This is the most realistic goal of the Australian government’s 45-year plan: to keep coral reefs alive for as long as possible.
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Aerosol spray planes could restore polar ice Dipping into world’s 20 deepest lakes ‘Doomsday glacier’ will raise sea levels 2 feet Phantom white due to extreme heat stress. This is the fourth bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef in the last seven years, and the recovery has been difficult.
No, The Great Barrier Reef In Australia Is Not Dead. But It Is In Trouble.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has experienced four mass bleaching events in the past seven years, including the one in 2017. Scientists warn that repeated bleaching will make it harder for coral reefs to recover. Brett Monroe Garner/Getty Images hide caption
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has experienced four mass bleaching events in the past seven years, including the one in 2017. Scientists warn that repeated bleaching will make it harder for coral reefs to recover.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has been repeatedly hit by widespread coral bleaching in recent years, where ocean heat waves have turned large swaths of the reef a ghostly white.
Unusually warm ocean temperatures, up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above average, have stressed the reef in recent weeks, though fall generally means cooler conditions. As a result, parts of the reef are experiencing severe bleaching, according to scientists from Australian government agencies.
Warming Threatens The Great Barrier Reef Even More Than We Thought
Back-to-back bleaching events are expected to become more common as the climate warms, but in Australia it is happening faster than expected, a worrying sign that most of the world’s coral reefs are at risk of disappearing. .
“Climate change is one of the worst things for coral reefs,” says Emily Darling, director of coral reef conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “If they’re bleaching and dying every year or two , there is not enough time between these massive discolorations. events so that coral reefs have a chance for meaningful recovery.
As temperatures rise, corals lose their critical symbionts: the marine algae that live inside the coral and produce its main food source. Those algae give corals their vibrant colors, but are expelled during periods of heat stress, causing corals to discolor and turn white.
“If the water temperature drops, bleached corals can recover from this stress,” David Wachenfeld, chief scientist at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, said in an update on the health of the reef.
Why The Great Barrier Reef Could Disappear By 2050
However, forecasts show that ocean temperatures will be above average for the next few weeks, increasing the risk of some corals dying. The reef has been experiencing extreme heat since November, which was the hottest November on record for the Great Barrier Reef.
“Coral reefs are experiencing extreme heat stress longer than ever,” says Derek Manzello, Coral Reef Watch coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Even recovering coral reefs are damaged, as periods of stress can damage their ability to regenerate. After massive bleaching in 2016 and 2017, large sections of the Great Barrier Reef lost half of their living coral. Another bleaching event occurred in 2020.
“Basically, you’re destroying all of your supersensitive corals,” Mancello says. “The really bad thing about this is that the most sensitive corals are often the most responsible for building coral reefs. They are the fastest growing corals.”
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Suffers Sixth Mass Bleaching Event
Rocks around the world suffer similar weather-related damage. A global assessment found that 14 percent of the world’s coral reefs died between 2009 and 2019.
A quarter of marine life depends on coral reefs at some point in their lives, as do millions of people who depend on reefs for food, work and to protect coastlines from marine erosion.
Scientists are scrambling to find ways to give coral reefs a fighting chance, such as looking for reefs that act as refuges because they naturally experience cold water. Others grow heat-resistant corals that can be used to restore reefs.
However, studies show that unless countries reduce fossil fuel emissions over the next decade, the outlook for coral reefs is bleak. Even if the world could limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, 70 to 90 percent of coral reefs are likely to die.
The Great Barrier Reef
“We really need to learn from these bleaching events,” Darling says. “We need to change business as usual. We need to take action on climate change.” Before (top) and after (bottom) the 2016 bleaching event on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Image courtesy of XL
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