Great Barrier Reef Under Threat

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is under threat due to global warming-induced rises in sea surface temperatures. Photo source: NASA (public domain)

Two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef is now under threat due to global warming-induced rising sea surface temperatures, a recent new aerial survey has found.

Sadly, mass bleaching events have occurred twice in quick succession – once in 2016 and now again this year – which means that the largest coral reef system on Earth might not have a chance to recover. This is particularly concerning given that even fast-growing corals can take up to 10 years to recover from bleaching, especially as bleaching can make coral more vulnerable to disease.

The survey, conducted by scientists at the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, found that only the southern part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site has been unaffected so far. All other regions off the coast of Queensland are experiencing an alarmingly high frequency of bleaching events.

While it is still unclear how much of the reef will be affected, it is estimated that the death toll will extend about 500 kilometres (about 300 miles) south of last year’s bleaching event. That’s bigger than the width of Switzerland.

Combating sea surface warming is clearly a pertinent problem that we need to solve if we are to save one of the most impressive and important natural phenomena on Earth. Hopefully, as word currently spreads through news outlets and on social media, the world can unite to come up with an effective and lasting solution.