Coral reefs are keystone species (the polyps) that make up their own ecosystems. The Great Barrier Reef is a great example of such and is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1981. By having a UNESCO World Heritage site declaration, it is meant that the location will be preserved and maintained by the government for future generations to enjoy. It is the world’s largest coral reef system, covering 348,000 square kilometers! There are 2,500 individual reefs and more than 900 islands ranging from sandy/vegetative cays, cays are small banks of rock, sand, and coral, to large rugged continental islands. The Great Barrier Reef is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 400 species of coral, 240 species of birds and many other species of sponge, anemones, marine worms, crustaceans and many other aquatic animal species!
A picture of the Great of Barrier Reef
Unfortunately, the Great Barrier Reef is dying. It has been dying for months and as sad as it is to admit it, it’s been confirmed by scientists as a fact, although it was apparent from a qualitative point of view from the news reports highlighted by The Guardian. What was the cause of this great die off? High water temperatures have catalyzed a greater than normal bleaching leading to record-breaking recordings, where 67% of a 700km stretch of coral reef located in the pristine northern areas has been lost in shallow water over a period of eight to nine months confirmed by the Australian Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. Some of the southern regions survived by by the cooler water currents from the Coral Sea providing relief to the reef.
It is now predicted that it will take 10-15 years for the reef system to make a recovery, but it is expected that there may be another bleaching event leading to further damage to this vital Australian ecosystem. The Australian government is due to submit a UNESCO report on the placing the Great Barrier Reef onto the list of world heritage in danger. Additionally, the Australian government needs a report on long-term sustainability and funding plan for management of the reef until 2050.
Climate change poses an enormous threat to the reef, and it has been brought up by a former head of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Graeme Kelleher, who has called for the shutdown of coal mines, which are key contributors to the Australian economy and greenhouse gasses.
Until next time, Barry out!