The Great Barrier Reef is 1400 miles of coral islands and cluster. It is home to hundreds of ocean animals. But experts are warning us that it’s at risk of being destroyed…PERMANENTLY!
Many species from tiny fish to massive whales rely on the reef for protection, food, and housing. Even seabirds depend on it because of the food chain they are apart of.
Those are the biggest reasons that scientists are so concerned.
The Great Barrier Reef is a living structure, but a huge section of the reef is dying or already dead because of the ocean’s changing temperatures.
Because the temperatures are rising, the heat kills the algae that the corals draw energy from, leaving behind only bleached coral.
A study in Naturerevealed that a ” 2016 heat wave had bleached large sections of the reef, and the study’s author Terry Hughes called the event “the worst we’ve ever seen.”
While bleached coral can slowly recover from these drastic events, the amount of time between incidents are happening too quickly. It doesn’t allow time for the coral to bounce back.
Only the meridional half of the reef evaded dangerous damage, and the likelihood of another bleaching event could end some coral islands for good.
Losing the beautiful coral reefs are devasting but not the main concern. The fact that over 25% of ocean species depend on reefs for food and shelter is much more frightening.
Hughes had this to say: “Losing a lot of corals has a broader ecological impact,” Hughes explained. “Species that eat the corals lose their food source; fish that would hide in the corals become more susceptible to predation from sharks.”
“[The bleaching event] still leaves a billion or so corals alive, and on average, they are tougher than the ones that died. We need to focus urgently on protecting the glass that’s still half full, by helping these survivors to recover,” he wrote.
“The Great Barrier Reef is certainly threatened by climate change, but it is not doomed if we deal very quickly with greenhouse gas emissions. Our study shows that coral reefs are already shifting radically in response to unprecedented heatwaves.”
There may be hope
In a study in the journal Nature Geosciences we are given hope. The study revealed that the reef has survived five near-death experiences in the last 30,000 years.
It takes thousands of years for the coral to repair itself enough to recover and we may not have that much time.