Ms. Martin, Cristen
Is the Greatest World Heritage Site in Australia under Threat?
Ever remember seeing colorful underwater landscapes with miniscule fishes darting around, with plant like organisms waving their branches lazily in the water? Yes, well they are called Coral Reefs. The plant like organism that you remember are organisms called corals. Coral Reefs or popularly known as corals is a very diverse underwater ecosystem held together by calcium carbonate. This calcium carbonate is secreted by colonies of tiny animals that are found in water with few nutrients. Reefs will grow best in shallow, sunny agitated waters. Although coral reefs are also found in deep water and old water corals are found on a smaller scale. They are also sometimes called the “Rainforest of the Seas” because they can form some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. Even though they cover only 0.1% of the earth’s surface they are inhabited by almost 25% of the marine species. Coral reefs are also known to be very fragile ecosystems because they are very sensitive to water temperature. Coral reefs today are under threat due to climate change, oceanic acidification, blast fishing, and cyanide fishing for aquarium fish, and harmful land-use practices such as water pollution and agricultural runoff which promotes the growth of algae harmful to the reef ecosystem.
Coral reefs are of three major types. Fringing reefs are coral reefs formed on the shore with a very small channel of water separating it from the shore. They are the most common type of reef found in the Caribbean and the Red Sea areas. The next type is the barrier reef, they are large network of reefs separated from the shore by a large channel or lagoon. The largest barrier reef is found of the north east coast of Australia. Barrier reef are far less common than the other two. The last major type is the Atolls, they are roughly circular reef system surrounding a central lagoon. South Pacific atolls are found in French Polynesia, the Caroline and Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and the Cook Islands.
The largest Barrier Reef found off the coast of Australia is called the Great Barrier Reef. It is the largest single structure made by living organisms, it is also visible from space. It consist of nearly 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands found in over 2,300 kilometer and spread over an area of 344,400 sq. kilometers. It located in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, Australia. It became a world heritage site in 1981 and CNN has named it as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. A major part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to reduce the impact of human use on the fragile reef ecosystem. According to a Study Published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Great Barrier Reef has lost nearly half of it coral cover since 1985. Also two third of the damage has occurred since the 1998. (Eilperin, Great Barrier Reef has lost half its corals)
Effects of Climate Change.
Climate Change is described as a change in statistic weather patterns over an extended period of time. It can also be refer to a change in the average weather conditions or a change in the extreme weather conditions. Changes that do not last for a few decades are not considered as climate change, hence, El Nino will not and cannot be classified as climate change. But in recent years the effect of climate is being seen in the El Nino due to its unusually high temperatures. Climate change is caused by many factors, but the most alarming one caused by human activities is “Global Warming”. Global Warming is an observed increase in Earth’s ambient temperature over the years. Although there are multiple ways in which the temperature of the earth’s climate system is being warmed, the popular press only report the warming of the near-surface atmosphere. It can be used as a measure of global warming but it is not the only way, there has been