On Coral Reefs in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most prominent tourist sites in the world owing to its enormous beauty and biodiversity. It has been listed as a World Heritage Site for over 40 years because of its intrinsic and scientific importance. It has a rich variety and beauty because of marine and plant life (Camp, et al. 7). The reef stretches for 1400 miles and has over 400 types of corals and at least 1500 species of fish. However, it faces enormous challenges that threaten its existence. Such challenges include industrialization, fertilizer run-off, and temperature fluctuation. This research paper evaluates the main issue with coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef. It also considers the main cause of the issue, the consequences, techniques to control the issue, and ongoing research to preserve the corals.
The Main Issue(S) With Coral Reefs in The Great Barrier Reef of Australia
The main issue with this heritage site is the loss of corals. The warming of temperatures around the world has led to the reef losing half its coral since the year 1995. There are different types and varieties of corals in the area with each being affected in a unique manner leading to coral loss. The larger and branching coral types that provide habitat for a wide range of sea animals have been especially destroyed (Camp, et al. 111). The coral loss has also affected coral polyps. Coral polyps form the backbone of the reef; they are highly sensitive to changes in temperature. If the waters in the sea get too warm, the coral polyps can die off. Since they are the backbone of the reef, the death of such corals culminates in the destruction of important habitats for sea life.
In the last decade, the reef has suffered from massive bleaching events destroying the corals. During mass bleaching events, corals are under great stress and they get rid of algae (Oppen and Lough 230). When corals expel the algae within, they lose their color and life. Algae lives within the coral giving it color and essence; the removal of algae results in the death of corals. The corals turn white and they are termed to be bleached (Oppen and Lough 2). The corals can return to normal conditions provided that the temperatures return to the expected range. Regardless, it is a process that can take decades given that the process of restoration is much slower compared to that of their destruction. Recent studies have established that coral regeneration is difficult when most adult corals die. A 2019 study established that a healthy coral population has baby corals as well as many old & large ones (BBC). Bleaching might kill the large and old corals meaning decreasing the possibility of coral regeneration.
The Main Cause of the Issue
The loss of corals is mainly caused by an increase in temperature leading to bleaching events (Camp, et al. 79). Temperature changes make the corals expel the algae living in their tissues which are responsible for their color. A small increase in temperature, for example, a 1–2°C spike, in temperatures sustained over a few months can initiate bleaching events (Oppen and Lough 2). when the corals are exposed to such temperature changes for an extended period, they eventually die off. On average, global temperatures have increased by at least 1.3°F since the late 19th century and the trend continues. The rising or falling of water temperatures increases the stress of the coral polyps causing them to get rid of zooxanthellae (algae) living in their tissue (Camp, et al. 142). The algae provide the coral polyps with the food needed to survive and also the coloration. A bleached coral may survive the event, but during that period, they are under great threat from disease hence bleaching increases the mortality of the coral polyps.
An increase in the carbon dioxide in the air has been recognized as one of the most substantial causes of a changing global climate, and this is highly problematic for coral reefs (Newell, et al. 168). It is important to note that the ocean absorbs at least a third of the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It results in acidity in the ocean. For a coral reef to thrive, it must produce calcium carbonate or limestone at a fast rate because this material also gets eroded by water. Climate change also results in the rise of sea levels. It culminates in changes in the intensity, distribution, and frequency of storms which also contribute to negative consequences for sea corals (Newell, et al. 173). However, the main reason for the loss of corals is the sustained rise in sea temperature, which causes massive bleaching events.
The Negative (And Any Positive) Consequences of The Coral Reef Issue(S)
The negative impacts of coral loss are substantial; it greatly changes life on the seafloor. A quarter of all marine species live in coral reefs. In the great barrier reef, marine species such as reptiles, crustaceans, fungi, bacteria, seaweeds, and fish live in coral reefs. The loss of coral reefs means that all these animal species lose their habitat and sources of food. The great barrier reef is one of the most productive and biodiverse ecosystems on earth. Its biodiversity is lost when massive bleaching events lead to coral loss (Oppen and Lough 111).
The coral reef also supports the growth of other species such as plants on which sea life depends. For example, the rabbitfishes, sea turtles, and surgeonfishes in the great barrier reef are herbivores that eat the algae and other plants overgrowing corals. The loss of corals means that such species of herbivores lose their source of food since they graze on algae. Loss of corals may lead to the death of such species if they lack the food necessary for their sustenance. Other species such as crabs, polychaete, limpets, chitons, and worms (invertebrate herbivores) also depend on the corals since they are also herbivores.
Methods That Can Be Adopted to Control the Issue
To control the problem of coral loss, there are several approaches and programs undertaken by various stakeholders. Plastic pollution control, oral nurseries, and renewable energy generation programs are some of the approaches sought for stopping coral loss (Tromans). The other technique currently employed involves seeding the reef with specially bred corals (heat-tolerant corals) that can survive better in the reef. It is a technique that can improve the survival of coral larvae. The other method that has been recently researched to control coral loss is the development of microalgae that is more tolerant to heat. When such a type of algae is injected back into the coral, it has better capability to live in warm water.
Research Currently Being Done to Restore the Coral Reefs in Indonesia by The Coral Reef Global Alliance
In Indonesia, the coral reefs have been greatly destroyed because of extensive fishing. However, stakeholders have been cooperating with local fishermen to restore the corals. Research efforts to achieve restoration include the growth of baby corals that are transplanted into the sea. New heat-resistant corals have been the center of research in Indonesia for several years. The intention is to conduct research and come up with coral nurseries where the new type of coral grows faster than the natural corals. Recently (2020), the country had the ‘Corals Are Our Future Festival’, which supports coral restoration in the country. The idea is to transplant over 3000 baby corals and ensure that they grow in a short period. The efforts also aim to establish a healthy marine ecosystem culminating in a better supply of seafood, income, and new medicines.
Three Things That You Learned by Watching the Video from The Coral Reef Diving Activity On the Australia Great Reef
One of the major lessons from the coral reef diving activity is that the reef is highly diverse. The biodiversity of the reef is its source of beauty because of the marine and plant life. From the video, one could see different kinds of corals with different colors and different types of fish. The video shows a very colorful ecosystem with many types of animal and plant species which makes it a world heritage site.
The second lesson from the video is about the potential dangers facing the animal and plant species from the loss of corals. In the video, it is clear that the animal and plant species depend on one another. Such species have symbiotic relationships while others have hunter-prey relationships. All these animals and plants coexist in the reef, and the loss of corals can upset the balance.
The third thing that was prominent is the coverage of different species of sea life. The video covers some specific species such as surgeonfish, sharks, and unicorn fish. The specific coverage of such species provided an opportunity for one to get some deeper knowledge about the sea life in the great barrier reef. It shows that there are individual species whose life depends on the health of the great barrier reef.
The great barrier reef is a wonderful site where sea life is under threat because of habitat loss. The main problem of habitat loss is caused by increasing temperatures because of global warming. The consequences of this main problem include the death of sea life. On the other hand, some efforts to curb coral loss include heat-resistant corals, and research in Indonesia focuses on transplanting the habitat with baby corals that can live under harsher conditions.
BBC. “Great Barrier Reef Has Lost Half of Its Corals Since 1995.” BBC News, 14 Oct. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-54533971.
Camp, Emma F., et al. The Future of Coral Reefs Subject to Rapid Climate Change: Lessons from Natural Extreme Environments. Frontiers Media SA, 2019.
Newell, Jennifer, et al. Curating the Future: Museums, Communities and Climate Change. Taylor & Francis, 2016.
Oppen, Madeleine J., and Janice M. Lough. Coral Bleaching: Patterns, Processes, Causes and Consequences. Springer, 2018.
Tromans, Chelsea. “Ways to Help the Great Barrier Reef.” Queensland, 8 May 2020, www.queensland.com/au/en/places-to-see/experiences/great-barrier-reef/ways-to-help-the-great-barrier-reef.