Views / Science Says

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.

Coral bleaching happens when the algae coral depend on die, fall off or degrade.

Coral bleaching happens when the algae coral depend on die, fall off or degrade.

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.  

 

Andres Plana/Metro

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

.. COMBINED.

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