The Great Barrier Reef
An article published in 2012 in the Australian Institute of Marine Scientists looked at Reef Diversity studies since 1985 and reported that the GBR has lost an unbelievable 50.7% of reef cover in the last 27 years, and that’s not the worst of it! The study predicts that at the current rate there will be a further decline of 5-10% in the next 10 years.
There are three major causes for the reef decline:
1) Tropical Cyclones
2) Predation from the crown-of-thorns starfish
All three causes can be related to a changing climate. Bleaching is related to an increase in ocean temperatures. Tropical cyclone intensity and frequency is related to ocean surface temperatures, which also cause habitat declines, which allow opportunistic and new species to colonise the reef, species such as the crown-of-thorns starfish.
The worrying aspect of this study is that this is happening in such a well maintained well studied Marine Park, and not an un-managed reef such as the reefs in South East Asia which undergo uncontrolled and extreme environmental stress.
But there is hope! John Gunn, CEO of AIMS says that as the majority of this damage happened before the most intense stages of warming and acidification associated with climate change have kicked in, that continuing to monitor and manage the marine park, and controlling the problem of the crown-of-thorns starfish, the Reef may be repaired.
Image: Allen James