The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. And it is no wonder why it is on that select list. It is Australia’s and the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. The colourful reef stretches about 2500 km and is comprised of hundreds of islands. It is so massive, that it is the only living entity that can be seen from space. And not only is it stunningly beautiful and attracting tourists from all over the world, but it is an incredible and intricate ecosystem. Thousands of species live in the reef including corals, fish, birds, sea turtles, manta rays, sharks, whales, and dolphins. And let’s not forget all the species of plankton, worms, and insects that are integral to the chain of marine life. The Great Barrier Reef is a sub-aquatic metropolis, home to some of the most diverse animals on Earth.
Another fascinating fact is that every year, the reef attracts over one million migrating animals. They travel far and wide to visit the reef to refuel, mate, have offspring, and even get groomed by the reef’s resident species. Yes, some spa action happens underwater. For example, manta rays will travel hundreds of kilometres and stop at Lady Elliot Island to have small fish remove their dead skin and parasites. It’s a win-win situation since the fish love eating that “delicious” food.
The reef has sustained much turmoil over its 500 000 year lifespan, from ice ages to tropical storms. But it has always managed to regenerate itself over time. An incredibly alarming fact today is that we’ve lost 50% of the Great Barrier Reef since the 1980s. An intricate ecosystem that has taken hundreds of thousands of years to form has been wiped out by half in a few short decades. Why? Intense tourism and pollution play a part. But the biggest culprit is climate change. Our oceans absorb about 30% of the carbon dioxide we produce. The absorption is warming and acidifying the oceans. Warmer temperatures plus acid equals death to the reef. The once vibrant coral with teeming life becomes a bleached barren wasteland.
Unless immediate action is taken, marine scientists have warned that climate change will cause “irreversible damage” to the Great Barrier Reef by 2030. If the ecosystems crash, there will be devastating consequences on ocean life. Humans will suffer too and lose one of the planet’s greatest treasures. What can we do to help save and bring back the Great Barrier Reef? Spread the word. Elect and pressure governments that say they will take climate change action. Support scientists and organizations that are fighting to save our planet. Attend climate change rallies. Make personal choices to lower our climate change footprint like driving fuel-efficient vehicles and eating no or less meat (cow production is the #1 culprit creating climate change!). Together, let’s protect our Great Barrier Reef – now.
(Sources: http://www.greatbarrierreef.org; http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/great-barrier-reef-1.3421919; http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/great-barrier-reef; http://www.livescience.com/6290-great-barrier-reef.html; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2574664/Irreversible-damage-Great-Barrier-Reef-2030-unless-urgent-action-taken.html)