While we usually focus on NYC, The Active Citizen also thinks globally. This week, it was alarming and saddening to read that the Great Barrier Reef has suffered another year of severe coral bleaching. After a devastating amount of bleaching in 2016, scientists are worried that this newest damage to the reef may push it into an irreversible decline.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world. It stretches over hundreds of miles and supports tens of thousands of animal and plant species. The incredible biodiversity and striking coral colors are truly inspiring. However, those amazing colors come from the symbiosis of coral and algae. Due to pollution and warming ocean temperatures, the algae are forced out and the reef looks white. Without the algae, the coral itself ultimately dies. When the coral dies, the entire food web begins to collapse and those myriad of species lose their homes.
While pollution plays a role in coral bleaching, the scientific community agrees that global warming plays the largest role in the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. It is also scientific consensus that human activities play a meaningful role in this global warming.
Losing reefs like the Great Barrier Reef is not just a tragedy for the planet, but is also a huge economic loss. When reefs are destroyed, fishermen lose their livelihoods and tourism plummets. Worse yet, these adverse effects are not just confined to areas around the reef due to the interconnectness of ocean ecosystems.
Fortunately, there are some amazing organizations that are working to protect the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs.
The Great Barrier Reef foundation supports scientists and programs that address climate change, reef repair, and protection of endangered species. They are unique in their exclusive focus on the Great Barrier Reef. Learn more about them or support them here.
The Coral Reef Alliance focuses on reefs all around the world and takes an integrative approach to protection. They believe in working with local communities, supporting repair efforts, and supporting responsible ecotourism. Learn more about them or support them here.
With Earth Day coming up, think about supporting these organizations and the incredibly important work they do to protect the vital and fragile ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef.