The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is one of nature’s wonderful treasures. Who hasn’t seen photographs or programs or articles on its size and massive beauty? According to the Australian government, more than two million people a year make the journey to view this marvel of nature and in turn have created a danger to that treasure, pollution.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest collection of coral in the world with more than 2,900 separate reef spanning or 1,600 miles. The Great Barrier Reef is also the largest living eco structure in the world. The barrier reef, aside from the coral polyps, contains sponge beds, mangrove forests, and sea grass. The Australian government, who designated the reef a park, called the Great Barrier Marine Park, protects a large area of the Great Barrier Reef. The coral reefs, despite the protection of the government face danger to health and survival.
The greatest danger to the reef is global warming and the effects global warming has on the eco system of the reef. Pollution from multiple sources affects the Great Barrier Reef. Agriculture, housing construction, mining and tourism have had a detrimental effect on the Great Barrier Reef. Cyclones create damage to the coral reefs killing many small coral polyps. When the polyps die, the balance of algae is gone, algae increases and kills more polyps by smothering them
Global warming, with its increasing water temperatures and acidity threaten the reef. The acidity of the water affects the calcium structure of the coral, home to polyps. When the coral structures weaken, the polyps become stressed and die. The water temperatures affect the balance of algae and many creatures will change their patterns resulting in a domino affect to many creatures that are part of the Great Barrier Reef.
Human pollution threatens the Great Barrier Reef. In Australia, eighty percent of the farmland is adjacent to the reef. Unfortunately, a combination of dangerous materials becomes dangerous runoff that adversely affecting the reef. Insecticides, fertilizers, manure and human waste flow into the reefs. Although the coral reefs try to absorb the sediment flow, the health of the creatures is stressed, other creatures die or leave the area, and parts of the reef become ill or die.
Nitrogen and phosphorous from these runoffs affects the Great Barrier Reef. A reverse symbiotic relationship appears. The Phytoplankton increases in numbers, which cause other adverse life to increase in numbers, the sponges, tubeworms and barnacles. These marine creatures begin to compete for the same space as the coral polyps decimating the coral polyps.
An example of imbalance is a species called the crown-of-thorns starfish that has exploded in numbers along the Great Barrier Reef scientists say is the direct result of the effects of global warming and pollution. These sea creatures feed on the polyps of the coral reef. They can be massive and a challenge to eradicate. These creatures disrupt the fragile balance and are poisonous, a danger to swimmers and divers as they can pierce swimwear.
Although Australia carries out measures to protect the Great Barrier Reef, more action is required. Often measures are not enforced or fully implemented that weakens the overall protection. Australia may be able to reduce or eliminate some of the sources of threats to the reef, but the lager one, global warming takes the efforts of humanity, not only to protect the Great Barrier Reef, but also to preserve the ocean and its entire eco system.
Information source: www.barrierreefaustralia.com