The Great Barrier Reef's Decline

The Great Barrier Reef, the largest living thing in the whole world, that lives off the coast of Queensland in Australia, is facing a massive decline as we speak. This massive barrier reef that stretches out to about 2,300 km parallel to the coastline is being seriously affected by the effects of climate change. Reefs, as all living things, are very sensitive and any change to their environment can lead to devastating losses in these beautiful ecosystems. Unfortunately, The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing all these negative changes in a rather excessive manner.

The Great Barrier Reef has been struck with two massive die offs in 2016 and 2017, as well as having mass bleaching events at a rate of every six years. It should be noted that the normal rate of coral bleaching is every 27 years. If drastic measures are not taken to take care of this barrier reef, it could be facing bleaching events every two years. There is also a potential of completely losing the reef in 2040 if serious actions are not taken. Fortunately, the barrier reef may recover but unfortunately it may never look the same again. These massive bleaching and die-off events are caused by various factors but the main reasons this reef is taking such a hit include: overfishing, ocean acidification, sedimentation, nutrient enrichment, pollution, invasive species, and recreation.

Now don’t be alarmed, when a coral is bleached it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s dead. Coral reefs have these zooxanthellae which are photosynthetic algae symbionts, these little creatures are what give these corals their characteristically beautiful colors. When a coral reef receives any stressor, whether it be the water’s temperature increases or there’s too much sediment in the water, the coral expels these zooxanthellae which gives the coral this bleached effect. Even with these bleaching events the coral is not dead, but, it's not a good sign if a coral reef as big as The Great Barrier Reef has a massive bleaching event every six years. The bleaching events can be caused by several reasons other than an increase water temperature; high light intensity, low salinity, low temperature, high sedimentation, pollutants, and disease all contribute to this phenomenon.  

It must be taken into consideration that these reefs are important not only to the animals that live in these reefs, but to the area of the Tropics as well. Reefs are considered land builders, they form islands (in the case of The Great Barrier Reef, 900 islands), and they extend the coastline as well.

Thankfully, Australia’s government has finally decided to act and has decided to dedicated a large sum of money in the hope of trying to save this beautiful barrier reef. The government has recently stated that they will be setting aside 500 million Australian dollars in efforts to try to save this beautiful reef.