Great Barrier Reef Is at Risk According to Sources

Jacob Bryant, Staff Writer

In mid-October, Outside Online published an article entitled “The Great Barrier Reef is Dead”.  This article was a mock-obituary for the reef, meaning to bring light to the fact that human practices are in the process of killing off the world’s largest structure made by living organisms.

One of the most beloved and iconic natural landmarks, the 25-million-year old reef is larger than the United Kingdom and can be seen from space.

The Great Barrier Reef is dying because of human actions.  Global warming is raising the water temps, resulting in coral bleaching.

Coral bleaching is the culprit behind the dying reef.

Corals obtain most of their nutrients, as well as their vibrant colors, from symbiotic algae.  However, when the water temperatures grow too high, the algae begin to produce toxic levels of oxygen.

This toxicity forces the coral to eject the algae, eventually starving and losing their color. The coral will die within months, unless the water temperature can be lowered enough to foster the growth of new algae.

The first mass coral bleaching occurred in 1981. Increasing in frequency through the 90’s into present day, coral bleaching is responsible for the reef’s current state.

 By this point, as much as 93 percent of the reef has been affected by some level of coral bleaching.  Significant visual differences are obvious upon viewing past and current pictures of the reef.

Water acidity also plays a significant role in the reef’s degradation. As the world’s oceans absorb increasing levels of carbon from the atmosphere, the water gradually becomes very acidic, so much so as to dissolve the living reef itself.

 “If it was a person, it would be on life support,” said professor Tim Flannery, Chief Climate Counselor.

The reef is 1,400 miles long, consisting of 1,050 islands and 2,900 individual reefs. It contains more biodiversity than all of Europe combined; 3,000 species of mollusk, 450 species of coral, 30 species of cetaceans, 220 species of birds, and 1,625 species of fish.  The reef also serves as the largest breeding ground for green turtles.

At present time, as much as 50 percent of the warmer, more northern part of the reef has died.

So far no efforts have been made to save the reef. In fact, Australia has strived to keep the critical state of the reef hidden in order to maintain its tourism industry.

Australia’s Department of the Environment explained their decision by saying, “experience had shown that negative comments about the status of World Heritage-listed properties impacted on tourism.”