Why the Great Barrier Reef is Special
- It is a World Heritage Site and a marine park .
- It is about 2300 kilometres long
- It is located along the north-eastern Coast of Queensland, Australia
- It is home to countless species of colourful fish, molluscs and starfish
- The reef consists of thousands of reefs and about 900 islands
- Osprey, Lizard and Raine Islands are protected
- Many mammals, birds and other sea species such as green turtles and humpback whales migrate in their thousands each year to the reef to breed
- Its biodiversity is unique
one of its greatest wonders,
Great Barrier Reef (BBC documentary 2015)
The Damage to the Reef
Many of the current coral bleaching articles on the Great Barrier Reef state a staggering 93% damage with full recovery not expected in our lifetime, if at all. This has been described as the worst natural disaster to have ever occurred in Australia. The fallout from what is happening now will continue as species continue to move and disappear. The effect on mankind will be equally catastrophic in areas where billions of people depend on the ocean for their food.
The Future of the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef and other global coral reefs (Western Australia, Florida, Hawaiian Islands and the Caribbean) are under threat from climate change with warming waters and increasing acidity. Other factors include agricultural and other chemicals coming into the ocean from local rivers. The major difference to this coral bleaching from those in the past is that much of the cause of the bleaching is attributed to man. Water temperatures need to decrease for the coral reefs to begin to recover but the full extent of the damage is still being surveyed. Some corals are more hardy than others and corals in shallow waters and those further north are more at risk to bleaching.
Hopefully this update will bring greater awareness of the urgency of the global effect of climate change especially in our oceans.
Links & References
- Video update from Dr. David Wachenfeld from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park on the current coral bleaching - April 29, 2016
- Added: Video update from Dr. David Wachenfeld from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park on the current coral bleaching - May 13, 2016
- Climate Council Communications Guide: Great Barrier Reef Bleaching Event February - April 2016 by Amanda McKenzie (Climate Council of Australia)
- The Weather Network "Worst Coral Bleaching on Record Hits Great Barrier Reef"
- Coral reef studies from ARC Centre of Excellence
- Fish as Food. Billions of people depend on fish as a staple food
- All photographs courtesy of the XL Catlin Seaview Survey http://www.globalcoralbleaching.org
- Map New Caledonia & Australia courtesy D-maps
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Updated: 22 April 2016
Due to its extent and severity, the current mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef is worse than the previous mass bleaching events of 1998 and 2002.
Reef-wide assessments and analyses of bleaching will take several weeks to complete, and as the event is still unfolding, it may be several months until the full impact is known.
Overall, 93 per cent of reefs surveyed have shown bleaching to some extent. In general, there is a gradient of decreasing severity from north to south along the Reef.
While low-level coral mortality has been detected as far south as offshore Townsville, observations of severe coral mortality have so far been restricted to the Marine Park's Far Northern Management Area, above Cooktown.
The area between Cooktown and Townsville is displaying patchy moderate to severe bleaching, with some coral mortality.
Levels of bleaching between Townsville and offshore Mackay continue to range from being mainly minor to moderate, with some severe bleaching. Minor amounts of coral die-off have also been detected in this area.There continues to be only minor bleaching south of Mackay.
A map is available summarising the observed bleaching. (Link no longer available: Liz)
The Bureau of Meteorology has advised that mean sea surface temperatures for February and March 2016 over the Great Barrier Reef were the highest on record (since 1900).
Bleaching occurs when live corals are stressed from overheating. If the waters cool down quickly enough, the corals can survive, but if the corals remain stressed for many weeks, they will die off.
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