Sydney, Australia: The Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder of the world and arguably Australia’s main tourist attraction. It’s the largest living organism on the planet and the world’s biggest reef system, home to a magnitude of unique and diverse species. Traditional Owners also have significant cultural connections to the Reef, highlighting that it’s not only essential for marine life but for human well-being.
Sadly, the Great Barrier Reef is under threat from climate change and pollution causing rising sea temperatures, acidity, and hostile conditions. The last few years have seen the worst cases of coral bleaching on record which has been supposedly due to human influence.
The Great Barrier Reef has taken shape over millions of years and because of human influence, in just 30 years, half of it is gone. Greenpeace, 2018
Why is this giant coral bed so important and what should we be doing to save it? Well, here are some suggestions.
Why is it great?
The Great Barrier Reef is much more than just ‘great’, it’s essential. It is currently listed as a World Heritage site for multiple reasons, predominately for its biodiversity. The list of organisms that rely on the Reef for survival is endless but here’s a selection (info sourced from the Australian Government site):
- six of the seven known turtle species in the world live here and some are listed as Critically Endangered (Flatback, Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback, Loggerhead and Olive Ridley). These turtles survive off the coral reefs and mangrove forests, which are decreasing.
- Dugong (the sea cow) is a vegetarian marine animal, with possibly one of the most adorable faces in the animal kingdom. The Great Barrier Reef has the largest population of Dugongs, however, the species is listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ according to WWF due to coastal development and water pollution damaging habitats.
- 54 percent of the world’s mangrove diversity live amongst the Reef. It may not seem sad to lose mangroves, yet they provide habitats for other marine life (including turtles).
- Humpback whales, amongst various other whale species, use the Great Barrier Reef as a safe breeding ground. If the Reef’s conditions are hostile, it’s more difficult for the whales to breed.
- There are approximately 2,000 fish species living amongst the Reef, including the clownfish (don’t make Nemo lose his home!) Loss of coral and over-fishing is causing damage to these species.
Thanks to the Great Barrier Reef’s spectacular natural beauty and biodiversity, it’s a popular tourist destination for snorkelling, boat trips, and diving. ‘The economic, social and icon value of the Great Barrier Reef’, published in 2013 by Deloitte confirmed its market and social value. The Reef brings in up to $6.4 billion per year for Australia from two million tourists. There are also approximately 64,000 people that rely on the Reef for income. Without it, there would be a significant loss of income, tourism, and jobs. There is also the added benefit that the Reef protects coastlines from waves, storms, and floods. It literally protects human life, property damage, and shoreline erosion.
Take action to protect the Reef
Clearly, the Great Barrier Reef is important and immediate action needs to be taken to protect it from disappearing. The main contributors harming the reef are climate change, intensive urban development, and farming.
It’s hard to imagine how the reef – held up as a bastion for those around the world – can fully bounce back. The hope for many of the scientists is that this event will at least communicate to a global audience the reality of climate change and the effects it’s having on the natural world. – Laura Hampton, New Scientist article 2017
Australia has one of the worst individual carbon footprints in the world, therefore it’s essential to push for renewable energy rather than fossil fuels and reduce harmful pollution.
- Follow and support campaigns and organizations against coal such as; Stop Adani, Greenpeace, Take 3, WWF.
- Write to your local MP and vote for greener politicians
- Invest better and support companies that don’t invest in fossil fuels including Australian Ethical and Bendigo Bank.
- Try living a reef-friendly lifestyle, selecting better products that are less harmful to the ocean (less plastic/toxins) and zinc-based suncream.
- If you eat fish, check out Greenpeace’s fish recommendations here.
- Educate others on the issue. If you have children sit them down and tell them. The time to act is now and power is with the people!
If there are any other ways we can protect the Reef that hasn’t been listed, please share in the comments below.
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