Hello non-vacation life….
I’m back from my week spent in the Daintree Rainforest and The Great Barrier Reef and before I blog about any of my personal trip stuff, and I go on and on about how amazing an experience I had, I want to talk about it’s destruction. I think it’s important that I make known, because of my visit, and my tourism, and my use of two charter boats while out on the Reef that I was part of the destruction to this underwater world. Therefore, I have to do my part, (like every other Leonardo DiCaprio wannabe) and explain how the reef is being depleted, and what you can do to help. This is one of the natural wonders of our world today and it really deserves a whole world pat-on-the-back and a little help from everyone together in order to keep it alive for the next generations. So here goes….
Here’s a few fun facts from http://www.wwf.org.au/ourwork/oceans/gbr/:
- The Great Barrier Reef includes over 2,900 reefs, around 940 islands and cays, and stretches 2,300 kms along the Queensland coastline.
- The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is 345,000 km2, that’s larger than the entire area of the UK and Ireland combined!
- The reef is immensely diverse with 1,500 species of fish, 359 types of hard coral, one third of the world’s soft corals, 175 bird species, six of the world’s seven species of threatened marine turtle and more than 30 species of marine mammals including vulnerable dugongs.
- Add to that stunning marine life are 5,000 to 8,000 molluscs and thousands of different sponges, worms, crustaceans, 800 species of echinoderms (starfish, sea urchins) and 215 bird species, of which 29 are seabirds.
- The Great Barrier Reef is the biggest living thing you can see from satellites (check it out on google maps).
- And here’s a link to adopt a Marine Turtle to keep it safe and healthy (which I think would be an unbelievable Christmas present for the animal lover in your life, just sayin’): http://onlineshop.wwf.org.au/wwf-marine-turtle-adoption-only/prd31?utm_source=WWFGBRpage&utm_medium=Website&utm_campaign=gbr
The Reef could completely deplete by 2050 (maybe even as early as 20 years from now).
I’ve been searching through articles & books as I usually would do for essay’s and papers in college, which is a bit weird for me since I’ve been graduated for about 5 months, but this is something I’m really proactive about because seeing the GBR first hand really opened my eyes to the world of traveling, a new world of colors that you’d never find in a crayon box, and a place I hope to one day take my family to experience a whole other world under the water. I’ve already got great fears about global warming (and hate that it has become a means of political tension, when it should really be about saving the environment that houses all of us. That being said, I also want to say if you still don’t believe in Global Warming after this blog post, or after countless scientists have concluded it’s existence, and the countless deaths of polar bears in colder climates because of ice caps melting and such, you’re either a. Rush Limbaugh or b. going to be blindsided in a few years if you don’t start making changes. With either A, or B, my feelings toward you are also that of an ignorant, bigot (and in lamens terms, a dumb-ass), pardon my French. Global warming is clearly there and taking a devastating toll on the world wild life, wake up).
In 2000, yes, 10, almost 11 years ago an article was published for Queensland University concluding that the GBR will be dead within 50 to 100 years. Professor Hoegh-Guldberg predicts that “the increasing temperature of the oceans will lead to more common episodes of coral bleaching and mortality and, ultimately, the death of the Reef as we know it today. The reef-building corals that make the Reef possible are likely to become very rare indeed if warming continues unabated. Corals do not survive the tropical sea temperatures predicted by 99% of all global climate experts.” (http://www.uq.edu.au/news/?article=2000).
A press release from the NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration written at the time of this article had this to say, “There is increased concern with the observation that northern tropical oceans are warming even faster now at 5oC per hundred years.” This is the part that is really scary, even reefs without human involvement are depleting in Northern Tropical regions. “The temperature rise is primarily due to atmospheric carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Even pristine reefs in isolated locations far from direct human influence are suffering damage due to changes in the atmosphere.”
Bleaching is also a huge problem. Professor H continued to say, “By 2050 bleaching may be an annual event, that is, if there are still reefs around to be bleached. If you have bleaching events every four years and they take 15-20 to recover, you will start to see bleached reefs not recovering. They will be dying” (http://news.mongabay.com/2005/1117-corals.html). What is coral bleaching you ask?
- Coral bleaching is when coral lose their color and become transparent, and show their white skeleton
- Coral bleaching became an issue when it was first observed on coral reefs in the South Pacific in the 1990’s. Coral bleaching also occurs in saltwater reef aquariums.
- The skeletal structure of hard corals are normally white, but due to zooxanthellae algae, which are tiny plants called dinoflagellates (single-celled microscopic organisms which belong to the Protista kingdom) that reside within the soft tissues of corals, they have color. These microalgae are photosynthetic, and their relationship with some corals, as well as other marine life such as Tridanid clams, nudibranchs, some sponges and even jellyfishes, is an example of endosymbiosis (symbiosis – the intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship; endo – within).
Another big issue of reef destruction is obviously human contact. Pollution is a huge problem. Just because it’s big, vast, and you can’t see any land from it, doesn’t mean you should throw your bottle there…or your cigarette….or your condoms etc. (I saw a lot of people getting freaky in our hostel in Cairns so I’m pretty sure the condom was a valid inclusion). Then there’s commercial and recreational fishing which is depleting the fish population and is a big tourism booster. Oil spills (what else is new, get it together world and just spend the money to build things properly) especially during the 1960’s and 70’s while oil boats passed through the reef to get to ports along the coast. Along with oil spills, waste from industrial sites from Australia’s growth have also become a problem. Just slightly stepping on coral with bare feet, or with flippers can do tons of damage. As well as ships dropping anchors on reef areas, humans touching hard coral reef, human ware and tare on the reef just due to the large tourism industry in most reef environments, and even though illegal, people trying to take a piece of the reef home with them by breaking off coral (if you know someone who did this you should have a pie throwing contest, for hours, at their face, in your backyard…just my opinion). Us humans sure know how to put our heavy hand on things. (http://www.workincairns.com/great-barrier-reef/environmental-threats.asp)
One of the last things that cause damage to the reef are crown-of-thorns starfish.
These are starfish with 6 to 23 arms (terrifying, like mini, two-many-armed Octopuses), who feed on coral polyps. One of it’s largest predators went extinct in the 1960’s and the crown-of-thorns starfish had an explosion in population growth and began feeding more and more on the great barrier reef. An adult crown-of-thorns starfish can eat up to 6 meters of reef per year. (Damn, stretch armstrong starfish is nibbling on one of the wonders of the world and probably has no idea. We should sell it in stores near YOU). (http://www.activeaustralia.com/great_barrier_crown.php)
Obviously, this does more damage then just human tourism in countries like Australia (by the way, Australian tourism depends primarily on the reef habitats and people visiting the surrounding beach areas for reef snorkeling and diving, so without the reef, their entire tourism financial system would crumble. Here’s a fact about that, Reef industries, which are reliant on a healthy environment in which to operate, contributed approximately $5.8 billion to the Australian economy in 2004 and employed about 63,000 people. Brought to you by the World Wildlife Foundation). There are so many other things that will suffer from such a devastating loss. If the reef is depleted in Queensland, waves will become larger and deplete the mangroves where many fish go to breed. Fish species will become extinct that live amongst the coral (if you love Nemo and you want him to return to his home, he has to have a home to come to).
With that all being said, rather quickly, and in a spark-noted-way I wanted to list a few things you can do to help the reef…
The WWF Australia has a big impact on what happens to the reef and they have both facebook and twitter pages:
They also have the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan:
Reef Protection/Coral Protection Plans
Here’s a petition for the protection of sharsk in Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Learn more about Climate Justice at their website and all the cases that have recently happened (by country):
To sign a petition to stop shark finning in Queensland (please sign):
Peace Conversion to protect the Coral Sea:
Help Save Japan’s Dolphins by signing this:
What else you can do (in my very favorite list form):
What you can do
- Adopt an animal
- Give a financial donation(https://secure.wwf.org.au/act/donate/)
- Be aware of what you throw away and where it ends up – don’t litter, don’t pollute our water ways
- Educate your friends and colleagues
- Support local business and government initiatives to protect the reef
- When enjoying any coral reef – don’t touch, don’t take away souvenirs, don’t endanger the marine life
- Advocate for the protection of our most precious natural wonderland on social networks
- Call or Email a Politician to urge them to keep climate change at the top of their list of priorities
Okay guys, now that I’ve successfully exhausted trying to persuade anyone to a. believe in this destruction, b. believe in global warming (it isn’t just something Al Gore decided to make up for shits and giggles) and c. maybe do your part to help the environment by just recycling that water bottle you carry to work or class.
Be Kind to the World, it loves you back.