Why is the Great Barrier Reef Important?

We are well aware of the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the world’s most extensive reef system and a home to millions of marine creatures, along with the world’s largest store of corals. It is protected by UNESCO and attracts more than 2 million visitors annually. This blog post will discuss the importance of the Great Barrier Reef and its current state.

Effect of Global Warming on the Reef

It’s common knowledge that the Reef is in danger. The Great Barrier Reef is dying from global warming, which is a result of climate change. Ocean temperatures have been increasing globally because of climate change, and this temperature increase is disrupting the delicate ecosystem of sea life that has been in place for thousands and thousands of years. This disruption, because of climate change, or a rise in ocean temperatures, is killing the coral reef and would drastically destroy one of the most important ecosystems on Earth if we didn’t save it.

But what happens if we lose the Reef? Will it have much of an impact? The answer is yes. Here is why the Reef is so significant.

What makes the Great Barrier Reef so important?

Img Src: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park AuthorityCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

1. Biological Wonderland

One of the most notable features of the Great Barrier Reef is the incredible diversity of life. If the Reef were to disappear, so would the homes of over 1,500 species of fish, over 100 species of sharks and rays, 30 species of whales and dolphins, and 6 varieties of sea turtles. Not to mention the 600+ varieties of coral that would be lost.

The Reef provides a home for many endangered species, such as turtles and dolphins, who use the Reef as a breeding ground or protection from predators.

2. Reefs protect the coastlines:

Coral reefs form barriers to coastlines, acting as a buffer from the waves and storms that come in from the open ocean. Many towns and cities could be battered and bruised by the incoming elements if the Reef was destroyed.

3. Medical research:

Over the years, scientists have used the study of coral reefs to develop new medicines to treat asthma, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer, amongst others. This has been achieved by isolating chemical compounds found within the Reef and utilizing them to help treat disease. Scientists are also studying creatures like clams to examine the aging process and other creatures to investigate their anti-viral and antibacterial properties.

4. Purification of the water:

Most corals are filter feeders, taking the impurities from the sea and leaving behind clear waters. Without them, the seas would be polluted, with sediment and particles floating around.

5. Absorption of carbon dioxide:

Coral reefs are living organisms and play a crucial role in our environment by recycling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This happens when the algae that live on the corals absorb the carbon dioxide from the air and use it for photosynthesis. The coral polyps then feed upon the algae and deposit the carbon in the form of limestone, which builds up the rocky structure of the Reef. So, just like trees, coral reef helps slow climate change.

6. It supports healthy fishing industries:

Many parts of the world rely on fish as one of their primary sources of food. Therefore, a healthy fishing industry is essential. Coral reefs provide a haven for fish to reproduce and for young offspring to grow. The young fish would struggle to survive if the Reef were no longer there.

7. It generates billions of dollars for Australia:

The thriving tourist industry, amongst other things, generates around $6 billion for the Australian economy each year. The Reef attracts over two million visitors annually who spend nearly $6 billion in tourism-related industries. With hundreds of thousands of people relying on the Reef for their income, the effect of it disappearing would be devastating.

8. Climate tracking:

Some structures of the Reef could be millions of years old! Corals have been slowly depositing limestone over the years, and these rocky formations are like time capsules recording weather patterns and coral growth. Scientists can study ancient rock samples to track important climatic events over the past thousands of years and the current state of global warming.

FAQ’s

1. Is the Great Barrier Reef dead?

In 2020, a study found that the Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its corals since 1995 due to warmer seas driven by climate change. As global warming continues, corals will be unable to keep up with increasing ocean temperatures. So, it may be just a few years before the entire Reef will lose its corals.

2. What’s killing the Great Barrier Reef?

According to the GBRMPA in 2014, climate change is the most significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef’s status. It causes a significant rise in sea temperatures, gradual ocean acidification, and an increase in the number of “intense weather events”.

3. What will happen if the Great Barrier Reef dies?

If one fine day, the Great Barrier Reef disappears, essential food, shelter, and spawning grounds for fish and other marine organisms would cease to exist, and biodiversity would greatly suffer. Marine food webs would be altered, and many species would disappear from Earth. The Reef’s death will disastrously affect the economy and the environment.

4. How long until the Great Barrier Reef dies?

The Great Barrier Reef is at a critical tipping point, and at this rate of deterioration, it could disappear by 2050.

5. How much of the Great Barrier Reef will be left in 2050?

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could lose 95 percent of its living coral by 2050 should ocean temperatures increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius, as projected by climate scientists.

6. How was the Great Barrier Reef formed?

The Reef formed around 20,000 to 10,000 years ago. The exact date is not known. It was a very slow process that started with the rise in sea levels at the time of the great f ood. As the sea levers rose and shallow tropical waters formed, the corals started formin . With time the reef started formin a this vast ecosystem was created. It has taken nature thousands of years to form the reef.

7. How long is the Great Barr er Reef? Where does it start and end?

The Reef is round 1,429 miles long and covers an area of approximately 133,000 square miles. It is the most extensive coral reef system in the wo ld. The Great Barrier Reef starts at the tip of the Cape York Peninsula in the north and extends up to Bundaberg in the south.

The Great Barrier Reef is so large that it is cearly visible from Space.

8. Why do we need coral reefs?

Aerial View of Great Bar ier Reef. Img Src: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

The survival of our planet depends on healthy coral reefs. They’re home to a quarter of the ocean’s marine life, generate clean air and protect vulnerable coastlines from erosion, flooding, and storms.

In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is an irreplaceable and crucial part of the ecosystem and economy.  

  • Made up of 3,000 individual reefs, it protects the coastlines and is home to thousands of species of marine life, including fish, whales, dolphins, and s x of the world’s seven marine turtle species.  
  • The Great Barrier Reef is also one of the most oversized carbon sinks in the world. Its mangroves and seagrasses absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it, cleaning our air and helping mitigate the effects of climate change.  
  • Besides its critical environmental benefits, this Reef attracts more than two million tourists annually, contributes $6.4bn to th Australian economy, and supports 64,000 jobs. 

9. How can we save the Great Barr er Reef?

Each and every one of us need to live a sustaina le life to ensure that not only the Great Barrier Reef but our entire Earth survives. We can all help protect the Great Barrier Reef by taking practical action at home: reducing single-use plastics such as coffee cups and straws, cutting back on meat consumption, using less pesticides in our yards and gardens, recycling waste appropriately, driving less by car or using public transport etc. We all must do our best to protect this precious natural resource.

10. How has the Great Barrier Reef been protected by the Australian government?

The Australian government launched the ‘Reef 2050 Plan’ in 2015. It is a 35 year long plan to protect the reef. It aims at taking steps for the long-term management of pollution, climate change and other issues that threaten the reef.

Conclusion

What would happen if the great barrier reef dies one day is pretty straightforward. It will not die alone, as its death will kill millions of other marine creatures. This Reef forms a crucial part of people’s livelihood too. Therefore, we must endeavor to protect the Great Barrier Reef and the Earth.

Recommended: How deep is the Great Barrier Reef.

Featured Image Src: By Luka Peternel – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90538905

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