We are not yet done with mind blowing Great Barrier Reef facts. There are still many to write. So, yet another article on the reef system makes sense. This natural wonder has a lot to give but guess what? The Great Barrier Reef is actually dying out gradually with the biggest threat being rise in global temperature. In this article, we try to understand what has happened to the Great Barrier Reef and what scientists expect in near future. So, let’s begin…
Mind Blowing Great Barrier Reef Facts: 1-5
1. 2 acre area of the Great Barrier Reef has way more fish species compared to the number of bird species that can be found in whole of North America. This should give you a fairly good idea of the rich biodiversity of the reef system.
2. Why are the coral reefs so important for ocean health? That’s because the coral reefs of not just the Great Barrier Reef but other coral reefs around the world are known for filtering the water by trapping the floating things. This makes the water crystal clear in the coral reef regions.
3. Coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef has an amorous ambiance. While many species of animals come here for mating, the largest orgy on planet earth is that of the corals themselves. Every year after the full moon of the springtime passes, the moon phase along with water temperature kicks of what is known as the “sex on the reef”. It is the phase of mass spawning where the corals spend an entire week in reproduction. They release huge amounts of eggs and sperm, which go on to carry on the nearly still or motionless legacy of the corals.
4. The question is why does the mass spawning take place only once during a year? That’s because the corals have genes that are capable of detecting the moonlight. Once the correct conditions are detected by the genes, the “sex on the reef” starts. This happens every November.
5. The coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef are facing a grave threat. They reef system is dying out gradually because of a number of factors like coral bleaching, increase in the population of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, pollutions, oil spillage and more.
Mind Blowing Great Barrier Reef Facts: 6-10
6. Coral bleaching is the greatest danger. To be more specific, the rise the global temperature is causing the reef system to die out. It has been happening way faster than expected. A paper was published in the journal called Nature, which shows the grim fate of the Great Barrier Reef.
7. According to the paper, 2016 was period of vast coral bleaching that affected the large sections of reef to die out. To be more precise, there is a city in the eastern coast of Australia. It is known as Cairns. To the north of Cairns is a large section of the reef system. A 500-mile section of this segment of the Great Barrier Reef system encountered coral bleaching.
8. Before the paper was submitted in Nature, an extensive survey was conducted where it was found that large sections of the reef were bleached out and is not likely to recover anytime soon or possibly, the corals will never recover and stay dead.
9. But here’s something you should know. The surveys were conducted by Professor Terry Hughes and his team, who were funded by the government. They conducted aerial surveys and found that the corals ghosted out. But the problem with the survey was that it could not really determine whether the bleaching was caused by declining sea levels, low tides, increase in sea level, increase in global warming, storm damage or Crown-of-Thorns Starfish.
10. Hughes’ study lead to headlines like “25 million years old Great Barrier Reef is dead” and more. Fortunately enough, that’s not the case. The Great Barrier Reef is far from being dead with the hardest hit areas ad per the Hughes report have only less than 5% damage as reported by divers who visited the areas given in Hughes reports. Source.
Mind Blowing Great Barrier Reef Facts: 11-15
11. What causes death of corals in the Great Barrier Reef? This is one question that must be answered first. One of the greatest threats is that of coral bleaching. What really is that? Coral bleaching occurs when the temperature of the seawater rises above normal. Corals are very sensitive to temperatures. Rise in sea temperature triggers a phenomenon called coral bleaching.
12. Corals are known for having a symbiotic relationship with the algae. The corals polyps are known for capturing algae, which are single-celled plants. These algae get protection inside the corals and in turn, they take sunlight and convert it into food. This food is used by corals to survive.
13. This symbiotic relationship can exist only when the temperatures are normal. When the temperature increases, the algae start producing toxins. This is not acceptable to the coral polyps.
14. When the algae start producing toxins, they simply spew out the algae – a simple act of self-defense. When the algae are expelled, the corals take the ghostly white color. This is known as coral bleaching.
15. No algae means no food for corals. So, there are two things that can happen. The water temperature doesn’t return to normal and the coral polyps remain free of algae. Absence of algae means no food. So, the coral polyps gradually die either of diseases or starvation.
Mind Blowing Great Barrier Reef Facts: 16-20
16. The other thing that can happen is that the water temperature drops back to the normal. This is when the ghostly white coral polyps will capture algae again and spring back to life as the algae start producing food essential for the survival of the corals.
17. If the temperatures drop quickly enough, the corals can actually revive themselves within 10 to 15 years. So, coral bleaching may be temporary. In case of the Great Barrier Reef, it is difficult to say what will happen in near future. It is true that the Global Temperature rose significantly in 2016 because of El Niño and coral bleaching did take place, it is too soon to claim that Great Barrier Reef is dead and will not be able to revive.
18. Wondering what dropping sea levels can do to Great Barrier Reef? Well, the corals need to live under water. This means that when sea levels decrease, coral reefs shrink to stay under water. They can again grow back when the sea level increases. So, declining sea levels too do not mean that the Great Barrier Reef is dying. It is definitely dangerous but death is not definitive.
19. On the other hand, rise in sea levels is also a major threat. The maximum depth till which the coral reefs can survive is 150 feet. Any deeper than that means that the sunlight cannot penetrate. Sunlight is essential for survival of the corals. So, increase in sea levels is also a major threat!
20. Finally, the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish are a big threat to corals in Great Barrier Reef. The numbers of this natural predator of the corals are increasing in leaps and bounds. Humans are responsible for that. Natural predators of the Crown-of-Thorn Starfish are increasingly captured by fishing activities and hence, the numbers of this starfish have increased in the Great Barrier Reef region. This is also a big threat to the survival of this natural wonder of world.
Great Barrier Reef is definitely in danger. Over the years, the situation can become even grimmer than what it is now. However, efforts have been made to save this largest organic structure on earth. One of the solutions that people came up with was to move the whole reef to a hospitable place. The result was that a 5-ton slice was transported all the way to Dubai in year 2008. That’s fine. But, removing the whole country-sized system to a different location was not really a feasible option (at least logistically).