The Great Barrier Reef is a network of 300,000 square kilometers and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Coral reefs are considered living ecosystems made up of fragments of coral, coral sands, algae and other organic deposits, as well as solid limestone. When ocean temperatures increase too much or too quickly bleaching occurs. Make no mistake the Great Barrier Reef is in really big trouble although it is NOT dead yet, with 93 percent of its reefs affected by bleaching. The exact amount of coral that is actually dead is just an estimate although scientists do estimate the damage to be in the 20 – 23 % range on average. Please note: There are different areas of the reef that have been affected more severely like the Far Northern management area. No bleaching-induced deaths were found south of Mackay.
Bleaching is when extreme prolonged high temperatures or the lack of required nutrients cause the coral to expel algae, resulting in the coral turning white. If that warming is prolonged as it has been recently the coral doesn’t reincorporate their algae, it bleaches, and it dies to turn them into snow-white skeletons. Corals can recover from this but some simply die.
Divers on the Great Barrier Reef have spotted large areas with degraded coral, with some divers even reporting the smell of rotted and dead coral when they appear back at the ocean surface from the deep.
So what steps can be taken? Listed below are a few.
List Source obtained from: http://www.coolaustralia.org/10-step…-barrier-reef/
Introduce stricter fishing controls to stop the Great Barrier Reef’s food chain being disturbed. This is critically important not just for commercial but also recreational fishers. The removal of big predatory fish by commercial and recreational fishers has a massive flow-on effect for the reef ecosystem.
Ensure standards for managing ships passing through the marine park are maintained and improved. The marine park authority says shipping traffic in the park includes more than 7,000 voyages made by more than 2,000 ships. And this is expected to increase as Queensland’s mining boom continues. Since 1987 there have been more than 700 incidents of shipping or marine pollution and numerous close calls. A huge oil spill in the Great Barrier Reef has the potential to be a globally significant catastrophe.
Boost research into possible actions to assist environments threatened by climate change. Although this is a controversial point, if the effects of climate change are as severe as predicted then it is possible that researchers may need to intervene to ensure the survival of corals. Right now a massive research effort is underway into the science of translocating heat-resistant corals from, say, the much warmer northern waters of the Great Barrier Reef to more southern areas. It is possible these corals from closer to the equator will have a greater chance of survival in a warmer world.
Managing crown-of-thorns starfish. One school of thought is that extra nutrients lead to an explosion in the populations of the starfish larvae. The animals have always been present on the reef but it is possible that outbreaks are now more severe and more frequent. These outbreaks are one of the single greatest causes of coral mortality and so need to be managed, perhaps through greater use of divers on specific reefs from which outbreaks are
known to spread, given the job of killing them. This is particularly important to the tourism industry.