Great Barrier Reef Outlook Officially Downgraded To ‘Very Poor’ Due To Climate Change
The outlook for the Great Barrier Reef has been downgraded from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’ as it faces challenges resulting from climate change.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) produce a report on the state of the reef every five years, in keeping with Australian law.
A first report was published in 2009, when scientists determined the World Heritage site was ‘at a crossroads between a positive, well-managed future and a less certain one’. In 2014 it was labelled as ‘an icon under pressure’, with efforts needed to fight key threats.
The most recent report reads:
Since then, the region has further deteriorated and, in 2019, Australia is caring for a changed and less resilient reef.
Rising sea temperatures, a result of global warming, are the biggest threat to the reef, which is made up of a 348,000 square kilometre (134,363 square miles) coral network off the coast of northeast Australia. Marine heatwaves in 2016 and 2017 caused ‘mass coral bleaching’ in the northern two-thirds of the World Heritage site, The Guardian report.
Other threats include farming pollution, coastal development and human use, like illegal fishing.
Researchers found coral reefs have declined to a very poor condition and there is widespread habitat loss and degradation affecting other sea life, such as fish, turtles and seabirds.
The report says actions to save the reef ‘have never been more time critical’ as ‘threats are multiple, cumulative and increasing’.
The window of opportunity to improve the reef’s long-term future is now.
David Wachenfeld, GBRMPA’s chief scientist, discussed the findings and agreed the issues surrounding the reef were ‘largely driven by climate change‘.
However, while the outlook has been downgraded, the opportunity to save the site is still within reach.
With the right mix of local actions to improve the resilience of the system and global actions to tackle climate change in the strongest and fastest way possible, we can turn that around.
Imogen Zethoven, director of strategy for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, commented on the report’s findings.
As per BBC News, she said:
We can turn this around, but only if the prime minister cares enough to lead a government that wants to save it. And saving it means being a leader here and internationally to bring greenhouse gas emissions down.
This is now the third Outlook Report. We’ve had 10 years of warnings, 10 years of rising greenhouse emissions and 10 years watching the Reef heading for a catastrophe.
The report explains not all areas of the Great Barrier Reef have been affected equally.
It was designated a World Heritage site in 1981 for its ‘enormous scientific and intrinsic importance’.
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