The Great Barrier Reef has long been one of our world’s greatest natural wonders. Sadly, it has become the barometer by which mankind’s destruction of nature is measured.
Now, scientists have confirmed what they’ve long feared: the Great Barrier Reef is headed for extinction.
What is colloquially thought of as the “Great Barrier Reef” is actually a massive colony of over 2,900 individual reefs, stretching across a 1,400-mile area. For reference, that’s larger than the United Kingdom. The reef, just off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is large enough to be seen from space.
Scientists investigating coral reef “bleaching” (the term used to describe the loss of color reefs undergo as they die,) blame reef’s the decline on environmental stress impacts. Climate change causes warming of the oceans, which in-turn causes corals to expel their algae. Without algae, the coral is depleted of nutrients, and begins to bleach.
Scientists have been concerned with the health of the Great Barrier Reef for years. Charles Veron, the head of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, held a conference in 2009 called “Is the Great Barrier Reef on Death Row?”
”The whole northern section is trashed,” Veron lamented at his 2009 conference. “It looks like a war zone. It’s heartbreaking. I used to have the best job in the world. Now it’s turned sour.”
The good news is that the reef is not completely dead yet, and there’s still time to turn things around. Russell Brainard, chief of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, said the scientific community fears that the public will lose hope in restoration efforts. They may start to think, “If there’s nothing that can be done, let’s not do anything and move onto other issues,” he said.
“We can and must save the Great Barrier Reef,” Brainard says. “It supports 70,000 jobs in reef tourism, large sections of it escaped from the 2016 bleaching, and are in reasonable shape. The message should be that it isn’t too late for Australia to lift its game and better protect the GBR, not we should all give up because the GBR is supposedly dead.”
A photograph showing healthy coral (left) alongside bleaching – or dying – coral.
(Photo courtesy of Caitlin Seaview Survey via WorldAnimalNews.com)