Home to a wide variety of marine species, coral reefs are ranked as the most diverse habitat in the oceans. However, they are in great danger. The Great Barrier Reef, located in Australia and some 2,300 km long, is facing its third mass bleaching event in just five years, according to officials at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Last year, it had already been found that the quality of the ecosystem had dropped to the “very poor” classification. Based on the state of the corals, seaweeds and water, the results of these analyzes are published in a report every five years since 2009 by the entity responsible for preserving the site.
The first document said that the Barrier was “at a crossroads between a well-structured and positive future and an uncertain one”. The second, from 2014, characterized it as “an icon under pressure”, recommending necessary actions to combat the threats. Now, the situation has worsened even more, as in 2016 and 2017, two-thirds of this real forest was damaged, extinguishing the habitat of a number of species.
The human factor, of course, is the main culprit, as economic exploitation and global warming are directly responsible for the death of polyps. “Climate change is making destructive events more severe and more frequent, so the damage is even worse,” says the park’s chief scientist, David Wachenfeld, in an interview with the BBC.
The warmer sea temperature, particularly in February, may have caused the most recent event.
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A “forest” in danger
Known for their lush colors and the presence of unique species, although scientists have found healthy spots, extensive, highly compromised stretches of the Barrier have been identified. Habitat-related problems discovered and reported recently were even greater than the previous ones.
“We must face this as a global call to act even more against climate change”, stresses David. All this because around 1,500 km were affected, causing an 89% drop in new coral growth. According to the United Nations, the planet’s temperature has risen by at least 1 °C since pre-industrial times. If it reaches 1.5 °C, 90% of the corals will go extinct.
“Actions to reverse the situation have never been more necessary”, say experts responsible for the reports. Unesco is even considering adding the biome to the list of endangered species.
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there is still salvation
Such reports are important for the development of strategies that seek to preserve the sites. Despite the bad news, Imogen Zethoven, director of strategy for the Australian Society for Marine Conservation, remains hopeful. “We can reverse this situation, as long as the government cares enough to save the Great Barrier Reef. This means that leaders need to be dedicated to reducing gas emissions”.
“This is the third report. We’ve had 10 years of warnings, 10 years of increased greenhouse gas emissions and 10 years of watching corals head for a catastrophe. Even so, we can change the scenario”, he concludes.