The Great Barrier Reef, the 1,800-mile long coral reef formation off the coast of Australia, is in grave danger due to climate change and could see its destruction in just 16 years, a new report says.
Home to hundreds of different coral, sponges, mollusks, rays, dolphins, tropical fish, birds, reptiles and other animals, and one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef is in serious trouble, as carbon emissions threaten its future.
A recent World Wildlife Fund report says the water around the reef is becoming too warm, resulting in coral bleaching (when coral turns white from too much stress and weakens). Coral bleaching at such high levels has not been reported in more than 30 years.
As the temperature increases, the study’s authors say, it’s “game over” for the Great Barrier Reef. An increase in the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean makes the coral more susceptible to disease and less likely to reproduce, therefore depleting the habitats for many other plants and animals.
Since 1985, more than half of the Reef has disappeared. The study says an increase in carbon dioxide, along with invasive species, nutrient runoff and strong storms is to blame.
“The corals have died, bacteria have taken over, the sand has dissolved,” the study’s author says. This trend will continue unless drastic measures are taken to slow low climate change and maintain lower temperatures. Immediate and dramatic reductions in carbon pollution and moving away from burning fossil fuels are the only solution, the report says.
In an effort to help and raise awareness for the Reef and global environmental change, the WWF will host Earth Hour on March 29, asking the worldwide community to turn off their lights for one hour. Organizers in Australia hope their actions will force their country’s Prime Minister to take notice of the Reef’s imminent destruction and act to enforce immediate change. Click here to get involved in Australia’s Earth Hour project.
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