Bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef

by TNP Editor 2019-5-10

One of the seven world’s natural wonders, The Great Barrier Reef is the only living thing on Earth that is visible from space, stretching from north to south over 2,300 km off the coast of Queensland. Located in the Coral Sea, in an area of 340,000 sq km, the Great Barrier Reef is comprised of 900 tropical islands and over 2,900 individual reef systems and coral cays.

The reef structure is built by billions of tiny organisms called coral polyps that form a symbiotic relation with coral algae. Together, a diverse ecosystem was formed over the millennia that includes dolphins, turtles, sharks and, of course, coral reef fish and crustaceans. These species interact with each other to comprise a delicate ecosystem that depends on the coral reef for thriving and surviving.

In 2017, BBC News reported two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef were damaged in an unprecedented bleaching, or a loss of  algae. This bleaching – which turned the resultant coral reef ‘white and lifeless’ – started at the north section in the years prior and now it’s hitting the middle section. Thus far, it had damaged a 1,500 km stretch of the reef, according to aerial surveys.

Chemical runoff, over-fishing, climate change, habitat destruction, and coastal development all have contributed to the causes of bleaching and subsequent reef damages. Scientists and policy makers are making efforts to raise the awareness and remedy the situation.

We will report more on their work and progress in the years to come.