So we all heard about the Great Barrier Reef thing right? Yeah? But guys! It’s not dead! The reef is in some serious trouble obviously, but it hasn’t quite reached the point where we need to be playing a funeral march. (The panic over the coral reef started because of this article from Outside Magazine, which was written almost jokingly). What I have been wondering lately is what exactly it is that has been causing the demise of the coral reef. I read a short snippet of something a few days ago that seemed to claim that our attempts at cleaning our pollution from the reef are actually what is killing it. It got me thinking.
Is there a direct correlation between pollution/climate change in the environment caused by us, the human race, and the deterioration of the coral reef? Is the oceanic environment going through natural changes that we simply don’t understand and are viewing as bad? Or is pollution/climate change simply correlated with, but not the cause of, the reef dying? Perhaps there is even a third variable at play.
Now I am not a science-minded person AT ALL, so those may not even make any scientific sense. Maybe that third variable is the actions we take to clean up the ocean; our attempts at cleaning up the reef may actually be what is killing it, and not the pollution itself. However, the fact of the matter is, it’s been basically proven that humans and the damage we do to our environment are most of what is causing the reef’s demise. For the sake of this blog, let’s bundle climate change and pollution together, since they do sort of go hand in hand. According to this article, there is an at least 95% probability that the changes in climate occurring are due to humans. Because of these climate changes, the ocean temperatures are rising drastically, but coral reefs can only handle small temperature ranges. The above-average sea temperatures are causing the coral reefs to bleach (coral bleaching, basically, is the loss of tiny, colorful algae called zooxanthellae) during the hotter summer months. It’s not just hot temperatures that cause bleaching either; algae can be killed by drastic cold temperatures as well, because this is still a large change in temperature that coral reefs simply cannot deal with. Bleaching is one of the biggest things killing the coral reefs around the world and it’s caused by climate change, which is in turn mostly caused by human beings polluting the atmosphere. So, that’s strike number one against humans and our pollution.
This past April, Australian scientists released information saying that 93% of the reef had been affected by bleaching. That means that only seven percent managed to avoid bleaching!! The scientists conducted in-depth aerial and underwater surveys to discover the large-scale bleaching happening off the coast Queensland. On the bright side, they also stated that some of the reef only experienced minor bleaching and that it should recover shortly. So considering this study was released six months ago, bits of the reef have recovered at this point. But this was still strike two against climate change.
Now there are of course other things that are damaging or killing our coral reefs. Some of which include farm pollution, governance, fishing (specifically fishing with explosives), and industrialization. However, climate change remains the biggest evil. Especially because of climate phenomenons like the El Niño, which brings extremely warm water to seas near the equator.
So it seems to be that the damage to the Great Barrier Reed has mostly been caused by pollution and climate change, which are two things that humans are greatly at fault for. There clearly is a direct correlation between climate change and the decline of the coral reef. A very large and significant correlation, in fact. Climate change and pollution are very much to blame for the reef dying, and it’s up to us to fix it.