One of the great natural wonder of the world is dying under climate pressures
CLIMATE SHIFTS have caused unprecedented damage to the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system. New scientific evidence of the world’s largest structure of living organisms – covering a giant 344,000 square kilometres – found that back to back ‘bleaching’ events had damaged thousands of kilometres of coral.
There have only been four recorded ‘bleaching’ events in recorded history on the reef – and now two have been recorded in subsequent years, 2016 and 2017, off the Queensland coast.
Jon Brodie, an expert in water quality, told The Guardian that policy efforts were not taking the radical action required to maintain the reef. “We’ve given up. It’s been my life managing water quality, we’ve failed,” Brodie said. “Even though we’ve spent a lot of money, we’ve had no success.”
“Last year was bad enough, this year is a disaster year.”
Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies scientists compiled the latest report, which suggests damage across two thirds of the reef that will become harder and harder to reverse.
The sea surface temperature Great Barrier Reef has seen a gradual upward trend across the last century, a factor in causing ‘bleaching’ events.
“If the stress is prolonged, bleached corals begin to starve without zooxanthellae and eventually die.” Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority explain the threat from ‘bleaching’: “Corals are able to cope in a limited temperature range and when the temperature exceeds this limit, they experience heat stress. Most corals have microscopic marine algae (called zooxanthellae) living inside their tissue — these give corals much of their colour and food.
“When corals are under stress, this symbiotic relationship breaks down, and corals expel the zooxanthellae. Without zooxanthellae, the coral’s tissue becomes transparent and the coral’s bright white skeleton is revealed.
“If the stress is prolonged, bleached corals begin to starve without zooxanthellae and eventually die. The remaining coral skeletons are then colonised by algae, restricting the ability of baby corals (carried by currents) to establish themselves on these sites.”
Global concerns on climate change led to the Paris Agreement, signed in 2016. However, the climate action movement warns that enough is not being done to slow down global warming – which threatens mass extinctions, and an increase in severe weather events with potential threats to the continued existence of life on earth.
Picture courtesy of FarbenfroheWunderwelt
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