Visible from space, covering 1000 miles, a complex yet fragile ecosystem home to thousands of marine life, the World's largest living structure; the Great Barrier Reef is dying and in danger of disappearing.
Vast sections of the reef are already dead. By some estimates, around a quarter of its coral has died in the last two years.
In aid of one of its greatest treasures, the Australian government has pledged 500 million Australian dollars to help save the reef, in what is the largest single investment for reef conservation and management in the country’s history, reports The Day.
“We’ll be improving the monitoring of the reef’s health and the measurement of its impacts,” said Australia’s environment minister, Josh Frydenberg. “The more we understand about the reef, the better we can protect it.”
The money would be used to improve water quality, control predators, invest in coral restoration and enhance underwater monitoring.
Why is it dying? The main reason is a phenomenon called “bleaching”, which occurs when corals become stressed and lose their algae and colour. This happens when seawater becomes warmer. Unless conditions change quickly, bleached corals starve to death. It is estimated that over 90% of the reef has been affected by bleaching.
When corals die, many sea creatures lose a key source of food. This then affects every animal further up the food chain, including human beings.
But as American environmentalist Bill McKibben points out: “Science is well aware of what is killing coral on the Great Barrier Reef — it’s the excess heat that comes from burning fossil fuels.” In other words, we are at fault.
Earlier in April, scientists declared that much of the damage was irreversible. Critics of Australia’s policy say that the country should focus on taking on the industries responsible for burning those fossil fuels.
Earth has already lost half of its “underwater rainforests” over the last 30 years. Is a quick injection of cash the right way to go about conserving the other half?