Humanity Hallows Issue 4 Out Now!
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By Wayne Finnigan
For 25 million years the Great Barrier Reef has been an iconic member of our planet, and today world leading environmental writer Rowan Jacobsen pronounced the largest living structure dead.
In an article entitled ‘Obituary: Great Barrier Reef (25 Million BC-2016)‘, writer Rowan Jacobsen proclaimed, “The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old.”
Jacobsen continued, “For most of its life, the reef was the world’s largest living structure, and the only one visible from space. It was 1,400 miles long, with 2,900 individual reefs and 1,050 islands. In total area, it was larger than the United Kingdom, and it contained more biodiversity than all of Europe combined. It harbored 1,625 species of fish, 3,000 species of mollusk, 450 species of coral, 220 species of birds, and 30 species of whales and dolphins. Among its many other achievements, the reef was home to one of the world’s largest populations of dugong and the largest breeding ground of green turtles.”
Despite this severe impact, the reef is not dead. Preliminary findings published recently revealed that “22 per cent of the coral on the reef died due to the worst mass bleaching event on record”.
In April, scientists from the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies found that the 93 per cent of the reef has been impacted by coral bleaching.
Bleaching occurs under stressful situations such as the rising temperatures of the water in the area, resulting in the coral reef releasing algae living in their tissues, turning white and starving.
The Great Barrier Reef Park Authority (GBRPA) are currently in their second phase of an underwater survey to gather information about how and why the reef has become so badly damaged.
The GBRPA has said that mass coral bleaching has happened in the past, stating:
“In 1998, there was a global mass bleaching event. This affected 50 per cent of the reefs on the Great Barrier Reef. At this time, sea temperatures on the reef were the highest ever recorded.
“Mass bleaching also occurred on the reef in 2002, with 60 per cent of reefs affected. This was the world’s largest coral bleaching event on record.
“In both the 1998 and 2002 events, the vast majority of corals on the Reef survived, as sea temperatures came back down again in time for them to recover. About five per cent of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral reefs experienced coral die-off in both these events.”
Leading marine biologists and writers such as Rowan Jacobsen and John ‘Charlie’ Veron, have examined the Great Barrier Reef over many years, discovering around 20% of the worlds coral species.
Jacobsen quoted Veron, “The whole northern section is trashed. It looks like a war zone. It’s heartbreaking.” He added, “I used to have the best job in the world. Now it’s turned sour… I’m 71 years old now, and I think I may outlive the reef.”