Extinction: Great Barrier Reef in Crisis

Bleached coral off New Caledonia in the Pacific 2016. Credit XL Catlin Seaview Survey

Bleached coral off New Caledonia in the Pacific 2016. Credit XL Catlin Seaview Survey

Extinction is looming in a place many of us may never see – 10,000 miles away, below the ocean surface—Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It’s one of the world’s great natural wonders; a place that can be viewed from space; a World Heritage Site that is irreplaceable.  Now, scientists say, this unique living structure, filled with coral reefs and rich marine life, is in a death spiral. (Reported in the New York Times)

A new Nature cover story reveals the extent of the mass coral bleaching – caused by warming waters, and guess what, climate change–  that is devastating the Great Barrier Reef’s northern section and other coral reefs around the world.

Researcher Terry Hughes, director of coral reef studies at James Cook University in Australia, says in a New York Times article (March 15, 2017) :  “In the north, I saw hundreds of reefs — literally two-thirds of the reefs were dying and are now dead.”

Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef Courtesy of Business Insider

Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef Courtesy of Business Insider

 

The news was not unexpected: In November 2016,  scientists said that the reef had experienced the worst coral die-off in a period of warming waters that caused bleaching and weakening of the corals.  (New York Times)

Free diving at the Great Barrier Reef

Free diving at the Great Barrier Reef

Millions of people around the world depend on coral reefs for fishing and tourism.

The Green News Update series on the threats and impacts of extinction worldwide and what you can do to have a voice and take action — continues through this year.

Climate change is not a future threat,” Professor Hughes said. “On the Great Barrier Reef, it’s been happening for 18 years.” And now — extinction looms.