The Great Crisis of the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is located in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, Australia.  It is said to be the world’s largest living structure.  It is 1,400 miles long and is visible from space.  With 2,900 individual reefs and 1,050 islands, the Great Barrier Reef is home to 1,625 species of fish.  It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is more than 25 million years old.

Rumors have gone around that the Great Barrier Reef is dead, but it is not.  It is damaged from a massive bleach event that recently occurred; however, the corals can recover from this. Coral bleaching is a natural process done when the corals are too stressed. When the water gets too warm for them, the coral expels algae living in their tissues causing the coral to turn white.  Without this algae, the corals can literally starve to death.  The sooner the water temperature goes back down, the sooner the coral will remake the lost algae and the coral will be back to health and all will be well again.  We can trace the warm water back to El Nino in 2015.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most healthy and well managed coral reefs ever, but there are many threats to its health such as climate change, catchment runoff, fishing, and coastal development.  The reef expands over 6 regions of west Australia.  With all of this area, it is almost inevitable to have some problems.  All of the run off nearby farms causes the water to get cloudy, and then there is not enough sunlight for the coral to survive.  The coral closest to the coast are in the worse condition due to coastal development.  Some believe that the Great Barrier Reef will be dead by 2050 due to all of this but there is an organization trying to help it stay alive.  The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan helps maintain and improve the reef’s health, but it is a very slow process.  The organization started in 2003.  Since then, they have helped improve the reef drastically, but there is still more to do.  Over the last five years, the Great Barrier Reef has been given a D on its report card for overall health, and it doesn’t look like it will improve to where it needs to be to survive.