2016 has been the year for it… Celebrities dropping like flies, Victoria Wood, Prince and David Bowie to name just a few. The King of Thailand too. And now the Great Barrier Reef has been proclaimed dead! Yes, that’s right, the Great Barrier reef has died! This has been pronounced in an online ‘obituary’ by Rowan Jacobsen, a environmental writer. The Reef has died at the age of 25 million years old after a long illness.
About The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef was the world’s largest living structure. At over 1400 miles long, stretching from Hervey Bay (Queensland, Australia) to just off the coast of Papua New Guinea. It was so big it could be seen from space. There were 2,900 individual reefs and 1050 islands making up the Great Barrier Reef.
The Corals are what is known as ‘keystone’ species. This means that the corals are vital for the rest of the life on the reef to exist. The reef has a very complex ecosystem.
With the loss of coral other species are likely to have trouble. Fish and their larvae use the corals for food and shelter. This loss of live corals will directly affect them, but then cascade up the food chain. Even humans will be affected as many rely on the reef for food and tourism. Indigenous people will also be affected, as they rely on the reef for their livelihood.
How The Reef Died
The main cause of the corals demise, and so the death of the reef, was coral bleaching. This happens when the corals are stressed. Corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae. The algae give the corals their amazing colours and even provide 90% of the corals energy. In return the coral give the algae a protected place to live and the compounds for photosynthesis.
When a coral becomes stressed, it spits out this algae. This stress is caused by rises in water temperature, due to global warming. This causes the coral to not only lose it’s colour, but also to starve. The recovery period is very long and the coral will only recover if there is no more stress, for example from pollution.
How Bad Is The Bleaching?
A lot of research has been going on into coral bleaching. And maps have been made to show the affected areas and it’s not a pretty sight.
- In May it was announced that 35% of the reef was dead or dying;
- 93% of the 2900 reefs are affected by bleaching;
- Of the upper third of the Great Barrier Reef, half is dead;
- 85% of the morality has occurred between Cape York and Lizard Island.
Many tourists would not have seen this bleaching as they normally view the central and southern sections of the reef.
Can The Reef Be Saved?
There is a long recovery period from bleaching, that requires no more stress on the corals throughout the recovery period. For the Great Barrier Reef to survive immediate action must be taken. It is clear that just being a protected zone will not save the reef – it can’t protect it from increasing water temperatures.
The announcement that the Great Barrier Reef if dead shouldn’t come as a shock. Coral bleaching has been recorded for years. It is a sad day as we lose one of the Seven natural Wonders Of The World.