The Great Barrier Reef - A Unique Ecosystem…

28 July 2014

 

The Great Barrier Reef - A Unique Ecosystem

The world’s largest reef system which is also one of the seven natural wonders on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef is arguably the most recognizable icon of Australia. Stretching over a massive area of over 300,000 kilometers, the Reef exists off the coast of Queensland in Australia.

It is the world’s single largest structure comprising of small living organisms called coral polyps and is therefore an ecosystem in itself. Popular with tourists from all over the world, the Reef generates substantial revenue for the state of Queensland every year.

The Great Barrier Reef has been in the making for thousands of years and supports hundreds of species, some of which are only found here. Composed of over 2,900 individual reef over a vast tract of land, it can be seen even from space. Here’s a measure to put the area covered by the Reef in perspective - it stretches beyond the equivalent land mass of United Kingdom, Holland and Switzerland combined!

But this unique ecosystem, which is also the World Heritage Site, is now under threat. Climatic changes which have largely resulted from human industrial activities are now seriously threatening the existence of this ecosystem. The large scale mining activity near the coral reef has brought the dangers to its existence close. Coupled with the temperature shifts caused by global warming around the world, the life of the Reef and the plant and animal life there are all in danger.

The warm ocean temperatures put stress on the coral which is the foundation of the Reef and leads to mass-scale coral bleaching. Two serious bleaching incidents occurred in 1998 and 2002 which affected nearly 50% of the coral population here.

Agricultural pesticide through water used for irrigation is the second most important factor in endangering the health of the corals. The construction of ports closer to the reef to accommodate oil and natural gas exploration combined with the shale extraction plants are all contributing to the demise of this natural heritage.

Though the Great Barrier Reef is only a few steps away from figuring on Unesco’s list of Endangered Sites, the human activities causing it to be so show no signs of abating. Unless we check the release of pollutants in the atmosphere and control global warming, the Great Barrier Reef may not have many more years of existence.