This is the Consequence of Climate Change in Action!
Scientists with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies have given us all the more reason to take immediate action on climate change. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is dying.
Scientists flew 4000 km (2486 miles), surveying 520 individual reefs and found that over 99% were suffering from some sort of coral bleaching. The severity is much greater than in earlier bleaching events in 2002 or 1998.
“This has been the saddest research trip of my life,” said Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre.
Under normal conditions, corals coexist in a mutually-beneficial relationship with tiny photosynthetic algae, known as zooxanthellae. The corals provide a safe, nutrient-rich living space for the algae, while the algae provide the corals with their main source of energy, consume waste from the corals to keep the environment clean, provide elements for the corals’ calcium carbonate skeletons, and are even responsible for the corals’ vibrant colours.
What is Coral Bleaching?
Although zooxanthellae are adaptable to different conditions, given time, and there are many different species of these algae, they are susceptible to temperature shocks. If the water temperature rises too high, too fast, they die. Without the colourful algae, the corals turn white, and this is known as coral bleaching.
The “Good News”
If the coral bleaching event is not prolonged, different – typically, more resilient – zooxanthellae species will repopulate the corals fairly quickly, preventing them from starving. Although stressed, the reefs once again become colourful, functional ecosystems, at least until the next event.
Why we MUST act now
If the extreme ocean temperatures persist, enough algae can die off that the corals can’t hold out until the next algae population takes over. They starve and die.
We must take monumental action to address climate change and save the reef. Scientists are seeing bleaching events such as this across the globe. If we are to limit ocean temperature rise, we MUST abandon most of the worlds fossil fuel reserves and make a rapid transition to renewable energy. This transition is possible! We have the solutions. World governments must mobilize action at the same pace they have in times of war.
We are literally in the fight of our lives to protect Earth’s ecosystems and maintain the support systems which allow us to live comfortably on this planet.