The Great Barrier Reef is suffering from a major bleaching event caused by global warming, according to a report by EcoWatch. This is the most severe and widespread bleaching event ever recorded. Coral bleaching happens when corals expel algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn white. Algae give corals vibrant colours and essential nutrients. When temperatures in the water rise, the corals become stressed and expel the algae; if the temperature remains high for a prolonged period of time, the corals will eventually die. Efforts are underway, including the development of hardier coral species.
The Great Barrier Reef Continues to Suffer from Coral Bleaching
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems, spanning over 2,300 kilometers along the coast of Australia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to over 1,500 species of fish, 6 of the world’s 7 species of sea turtles, and countless other marine species that are yet to be discovered. However, this natural wonder is now under threat due to a phenomenon known as coral bleaching.
What is Coral Bleaching?
Coral bleaching occurs when corals expel the algae living within their tissues, causing them to turn completely white. The algae, also known as zooxanthellae, provide corals with essential nutrients and give them their vibrant colors. However, when the water temperatures rise, the corals become stressed and the zooxanthellae are expelled. If the temperatures remain high for a prolonged period of time, the corals will eventually die.
Why is the Great Barrier Reef Bleaching?
The Great Barrier Reef has been experiencing coral bleaching events since the 1990s. However, the recent bleaching event that began in 2014 and continued through 2017 was the most severe and widespread on record. The cause for this bleaching event is primarily due to global warming. The oceans are absorbing 90% of the heat that is trapped by greenhouse gases, resulting in an increase in sea surface temperatures. As a result, coral reefs around the world are experiencing unprecedented bleaching events.
What are the Consequences of Coral Bleaching?
Coral bleaching can have a devastating impact on the delicate balance of a coral reef ecosystem. When corals die, the entire ecosystem is affected. Fish that rely on corals for food and shelter will be forced to find new homes, and larger predator species will also suffer consequences. Furthermore, coral reefs act as natural barrier systems that protect coastlines from storms and waves. Without them, coastal communities are at greater risk of flooding and destruction.
What is Being Done to Save the Great Barrier Reef?
Efforts to save the Great Barrier Reef are underway. In 2015, the Australian government committed more than $1 billion towards protecting the reef. This funding has been allocated towards initiatives such as reducing pollution levels, improving water quality, and strengthening the resilience of the reef to climate change. Additionally, scientists are working on developing hardier coral species that are better equipped to survive in warmer waters.
Q: Can coral reefs recover from bleaching events?
A: Yes, coral reefs can recover from bleaching events, but it depends on how severe the bleaching was. If the bleaching event is not too severe, the corals may be able to recover on their own. However, if the bleaching is too severe, the corals will die and the ecosystem will be irreparably damaged.
Q: What can individuals do to help save the Great Barrier Reef?
A: Individuals can take actions such as reducing their carbon footprint, using reef-safe sunscreen, reducing the amount of single-use plastic they consume, and supporting organizations that work towards protecting the reef.
Q: Are there any positive developments in terms of saving the Great Barrier Reef?
A: Yes, there have been positive developments. For example, scientists have discovered that some corals have the ability to rapidly adapt to warmer temperatures. Additionally, the Australian government’s commitment to funding conservation efforts is a step in the right direction.
Coral bleaching is a serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs around the world. Efforts are being made to protect the reef, but more needs to be done. Individuals, communities, and governments all have a role to play in saving this natural wonder for future generations. We must act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the oceans for the sake of the Great Barrier Reef and all marine life that call it home.