Global aid vital to end Reef strife
THE biggest jewel in Australia’s tourism crown will never look the same again – and to fix it, Australia needs a worldwide hand.
Made up of 3000 individual reef systems, the Great Barrier Reef is world’s largest living organism. It is home to 300 species of coral and a vast array of fish, molluscs, starfish and other marine life.
The Reef also supports a $6 billion tourism industry that provides employment for 69,000 people – all of which is in strife if environmental degradation causes significant, widespread harm.
Already back-to-back coral bleaching episodes have taken their toll, wiping out nearly 600km of coral mostly in the far north.
Caused by rising ocean temperatures that kill food-generating algal organisms inside the coral, no one can say with any confidence bleaching will not become an annual event.
Even more worrying, scientific data suggests a further two-degree increase in ocean temperatures would wipe out most of the hard corals.
The man in charge of the reef recovery program at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Dr Mark Read, concedes it will never look the same again.
Although some corals will build up a resilience to warmer temperatures, a number of species are facing extinction.
“I think it’s going to end up being a real mosaic,” said Dr Read.
“Some parts of the Reef are going to look more classic – hard coral-dominated – that we’re familiar with while other parts will be less dominated by hard coral and more dominated by soft coral and algae.”
While natural habitats are destined to change over time, Dr Read said that in the Reef’s case, mankind had contributed to the “current accelerated period of heating”, causing coral bleaching.
“We are talking about a global phenomenon,” Dr Read said.
The Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the world, needs a worldwide hand to save its corals, according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Dr Mark Read, an expert in the field