Great Barrier Grief: Australia's treasure is dying
To put it glibly, one day this could be a real snorkelling attraction: The Ghost Town Tour.
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Two-thirds of Australia’s teeming Great Barrier Reef could die thanks to coral bleaching. To put it glibly, one day this could be a real snorkelling attraction: The Ghost Town Tour. In every direction, as far as the eye can see, swimmers explore a vast white ossuary where a coral reef once teemed with life. This isn’t the only reef facing such a bleak fate. Here’s why.
Stony corals have hard, white skeletons of calcium carbonate that form the basis of reefs. They’re covered in friendly, pigment-rich algae called zooxanthellae, which give coral their brilliant colours and serve as a major food source. When algae fall off or die or their pigments degrade, that’s bleaching. It’s fatal within a few months.
Why does it happen?
Change in temperature: Warming water due to climate change is the leading cause. A cold shock can have the same effect.
Ocean acidity: Excess carbon dioxide in the air dissolves in the ocean, forming carbonic acid. Too much of it hurts corals.
Changing tides: Exposure to air causes bleaching.
Too much sun: If it’s too hot outside, algae pigments degrade and produce toxic chemicals.
Pollution: Some human-made chemicals make bleaching worse.
How big is the Great Barrier Reef?
About the size of Germany. Its area could fit:
• All the Great Lakes,
• Lake Winnipeg,
• Great Bear Lake,
• Great Slave Lake
• About 11 million hockey rinks