The not-so-Great Barrier Reef

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By KERRIGAN TYSON

Climate change. What comes to your mind immediately? Maybe it’s the ice caps melting from the rising temperatures. But did you know that it is also causing the Great Barrier Reef to die slowly? That’s right; the 500,000 year old reef is dying off at the hands of humanity.

The Great Barrier Reef has been going through alarming amounts of coral bleaching. This coral bleaching is a state in which the coral goes white from the loss of symbiotic algae, which has always been a devastating event amongst coral reefs. Since the bleaching started immensely in 2016, over half of the reef has been killed up to this year, according to nationalgeographic.com. The coral relies on this algae that is being exposed; without this colorful algae, the coral is left to starve, and nothing is there to provide it with the nutrients to survive. This loss of algae, and the overall cause of the coral bleaching, is being caused by the rising water temperatures, and it is getting too hot for the reef to handle.

People are also causing the reef, and other reefs, to die by coral mining. According to Coral.org, this is an act where people carve out corals and take them out of the water, using them for purposes that they shouldn’t be used for. Some of these uses include: using the coral as bricks, filling potholes in the road, and even cement replacement for buildings. They are used in building cement because of the limestone that they contain, as well as the other minerals that it produces. Along with this, people are using the corals for jewelry and other types of souvenirs, which is harmful and increasing the death rate of the reef. 

Along with the direct impacts to the coral, the reef is being heavily damaged by the water quality. According to barrierreef.org, run-off from agricultural, industrial, and urban land use is destroying and contaminating the coastal waters; this is a problem for the reefs and water ecosystems within, all of which depend on the quality of the water to thrive and survive. This run-off and water pollution is one of the biggest threats to the barrier reef and its health. If this continues to go on longer, then the health of the reef will seriously decline, and there will be very little ways to help it regain its healthy state.

How exactly can you help? As of April of this year, the reef will take at least five to ten years to recover fully. There is very little that we can do directly to the reef and the coral that is in it. However, we can do a variety of things to the economy that will help to rebuild the health; the most common one is to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Whenever plastic and other items that can’t decompose get into the reef, marine life can try to eat it and end up choking, or get entangled in different trash, such as store bags. These plastics have chemicals, and it hurts the life in the reef. We must learn to recycle and use items that can be used over and over again rather than constantly throwing away these harmful objects. The reefs don’t have any protection on their own; the plastic wrapping around the coral and marine life consuming plastic bottles can’t be stopped by anybody but the people. Soon, the Great Barrier Reef, and many other reefs around the world, will decrease in size through the many negative effects that are being exposed to them.