Over the last decade, the Great Barrier Reef has been on a steady decline due to global warming. An increase of ocean temperatures as a result of climate change caused by human activity is still the greatest danger to the reef, according to a five year report from the Australian government. Efforts to restore the reef “have never been more time critical” the report said.
Extending over 1,400 miles (2,300km), the reef was deemed a World Heritage site 38 years ago due to its significant scientific relevance. However, over the last few years, the reef has been suffering from warming sea temperatures which have destroyed large amounts of coral and adversely affect the ecosystem. Unesco’s World Heritage Committee is now thinking about putting the reef on its list of sites that are under threat.
Details of the report
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is required to provide a report of the condition of the site every five years. The initial report from 2009 stated that the reef was “at a crossroads between a positive, well-managed future and a less certain one”. The next report produced in 2014 said the reef was “an icon under pressure” and action is required to combat crucial threats.
The latest report said, “Since then, the region has further deteriorated and, in 2019, Australia is caring for a changed and less resilient reef”. Increasing ocean temperatures have resulted in “mass bleaching events” over 2016 and 2017, which caused the destruction of coral and inevitably the habitats supporting various ocean lifeforms. Although a few habitats are maintaining a decent condition, the overall state of the site is diminishing.
“Threats to the reef are multiple, cumulative, and increasing,” according to the report. “The window of opportunity to improve the Reef’s long-term future is now.”
Last year, Australia dedicated AU$500 million to the protection of the site.
The director of strategy for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Imogen Zethoven, said, “We can turn this around, but only if the prime minister cares enough to lead a government that wants to save it. And saving it means being a leader here and internationally to bring greenhouse gas emissions down. This is now the third Outlook Report. We’ve had 10 years of warnings, 10 years of rising greenhouse emissions, and 10 years watching the Reef heading for a catastrophe.”