Of all Australia’s natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef just may be the most spectacular. With almost 3,000 reef systems stretching across 2,600 kilometres, this World Heritage Site is a fragile ecosystem in which all its thousands of species of plants and animals play an integral role. We are naturally drawn to the beauty of the reef, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.
Sadly, while many are working hard to protect the Great Barrier Reef as a marine sanctuary, bigger threats loom on the horizon in the form of global warming and poor water quality. Water quality is negatively affected by runoff. Rubbish, oil, sediment, fertiliser, pesticides, chemicals, and even sewage spill into rivers and ultimately into the Great Barrier Reef, where they threaten the life there.
Climate change, also called global warming, is often debated, but the research is clear: The earth is steadily warming, and weather patterns are gradually changing. Scientists suggest these trends may be at least partly due to our continued dependency upon fossil fuels and deforestation, particularly in the rain forests. The rising temperatures of the oceans can cause widespread death of sea creatures and coral bleaching, which occurs when coral is stressed and expels the tiny plants living within. They can only recover when conditions become more favourable. If temperatures remain high, the coral will die.
The health of the Great Coral Reef is at stake, but it doesn’t affect Australians alone. The bleaching of the Reef has an effect on the entire world. Coral reefs have taken literally centuries to develop as the tiny organisms within built them at a rate of just one centimetre per year. They provide food and other valuable resources to the surrounding environment.
The Great Barrier Reef can survive only when humans take action by controlling their behaviour on and off land. Behaving responsibly around the Reef, fishing sustainably, taking steps to reduce energy usage, and limiting the number of chemicals and pesticides used can make a big difference. Reducing our consumption and recycling should become second nature. If you’d like to make an even bigger difference, lobby the government for climate change legislation.
We can all work together to save our Reef.