What is the Great Barrier Reef?

The Great Barrier Reef stretches 2,300 kilometres along the coast of Queensland, Australia. It covers 334,400 square kilometres, approximately the same size of Japan, Italy and Malaysia. In fact the Great Barrier Reef is the only living thing that can be seen from outer space and is the world’s largest living ecosystem. 10% of the world’s fish species can be found in the Reef. It is home to over 4,500 species of coral, fish, turtle, whale and shark scattered across thousands of reefs and islands. One of Australia’s breathtaking heritage sites, the Great Barrier Reef was named one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 1981. It attracts more than 2 million visitors per year. Unfortunately it is predicted that by 2030 the Great Barrier Reef will be all but extinct, leaving one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World a barren ocean.

What is the main threat to the Great Barrier Reef?

Despite its beauty, the Great Barrier Reef is constantly under threat due to climate change. Climate change is the consequence of pollution through human activity. Carbon emissions have a huge impact on the Great Barrier Reef, as they warm earth’s core temperatures. Climate change is slowly suffocating the reef due to the rise of sea levels and the ocean’s temperature change. Coral is very sensitive to temperature change. With just a two degree change in temperature the zooxanthellae that coral depends on for food will leave their tissue. Without zooxanthellae, corals turn white because zooxanthellae give corals their colour. This bleaching results in coral becoming weak and also disrupts the other marine species that live off coral.

What are other threats to the Great Barrier Reef?

On healthy coral reefs, crown of thorns starfish plays an important role, as the starfish feeds on fast growing corals such as staghorns and plate coral, allowing slower growing coral to form colonies. This helps to keep reefs balanced. However, over population of the venomous starfish is a significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef. With a single female producing around 60 million eggs, the crown of thorns starfish can suck the life out of the Great Barrier Reef. The rising heat temperatures from climate change increase the amount of crown of thrones starfish, as they thrive in the warmer months of the year. Scientists are using short and long term strategies to combat this problem. For example they are using the giant triton snails as predators to the starfish, although the snails can only eat one starfish a day.

Although the majority of the Reef is off limits, there are areas that are still open to fishing. Fishing nets can damage the ocean’s floor, including coral species. Nets can also trap the rare fish of the reef. As a heritage site to Australia and tourists, the Great Barrier Reef should be out of bounds to fishing.

Agriculture run off, such as sediment and nutrient pesticide pollution from river catchments, is also affecting the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef receives the runoff from 38 major catchments which drain from 424,000 square kilometres of coastal Queensland. Pesticide pollution threatens the Reef because it reduces coral growth and affects other marine organisms that live off coral.

What’s being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef?

The Australian and Queensland governments are planning to jointly invest 200 million dollars into the Great Barrier Reef’s health. 67 thousand workers are employed to ensure its protection. Changes have been put into place to stop dredging in the Great Barrier Reef. In addition, 29 million dollars have been spent to stop pesticide pollution and control crown of thorn starfish outbreaks. Yet not enough is being done to reduce climate change, the major threat to the Reef. In 2007, Australia signed the Kyoto Protocol, an international environmental agreement committing all countries who commit to reducing their greenhouse gases emissions in the future. By 2050 60% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions should have been reduced. However Australia is in the top five countries for greenhouse gas pollution per person, which means we aren’t doing enough to reduce climate change

How can we help reduce climate change?

Everyone contributes to climate change to a degree, depending on their carbon emissions (also called greenhouse gas emissions) through daily activities. If you turn off the lights whenever you leave a room, you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 0.15 pounds per hour.  Recycling just one aluminium can saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for 3 1/2 hours! Furthermore, a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Therefore, if you recycle and walk instead of driving you can help stop global warming by reducing your carbon emissions.

This campaign

The goal of this campaign is to encourage everyone to help save the Great Barrier Reef. Due to the devastating effects of human activity, climate change is slowly destroying Australia’s great marine heritage site. Regardless of your position in life you can do something to help by reducing your carbon emissions. So please support this campaign to save our Great Barrier Reef.

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