The Great Barrier Reef is under threat and is one of the most evident cases of animals/marine life being affected by rising global temperatures. The temperature of the seas too has risen which has led to coral bleaching. The thermal stress faced by coral reefs was first noted in 1985, and it has gradually become more severe. According to researchers, by the year 2050, 98% of coral reefs worldwide will be affected by extreme thermal stress, leading to bleaching. So the question is: What is being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef? Let’s take a look:
What is being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef?
The threats to the Great Barrier Reef cannot be taken lightly. Repeated bleaching of the reef’s corals is extremely harmful to the reefs. According to some scientists, some parts will never recover. This is because time is running out for the coral reefs to recover. James Cook University’s scientists analyzed the impact on the reef due to three major bleaching events in the past decades.
The most pristine parts of the reef were affected by high temperatures and the researchers have opined that tough action to arrest or reduce global warning was required to save the reefs. The Great Barrier Reef threats and solutions have to be considered right now, as the bleaching events have almost become normal events. Some very old corals, about 50-100 years old, were destroyed which would be almost impossible to replace.
What is being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef – this is the question the scientists are concerned about. Researchers conducting aerial surveys found that bleaching was not caused by overfishing and run-off. Satellite data proved that the reefs were affected only by high temperatures. Coral bleaching occurred in pristine waters as well as muddy, turbid water near the shore. The 2016 and 2017 back to back bleaching events has made it imperative for governments and people to take stern steps to check global warming. The bleaching events so close together is a first, and have also shown that these events do not necessarily coincide with El Nino.
Great Barrier Reef threats and solutions are being studied and there are some interesting solutions that have been put forward by the scientific community.
Innovative solutions to help save the Great Barrier Reefs
The world, which largely ignored the warnings of scientists about the disaster waiting to happen since 2001, has now woken up to the fact that we may actually lose this precious underwater ecosystem. The reports in the media were either very conflicting with one side already referring to the reefs’ ‘death’ and there were many threats to the Great Barrier Reef. The other view was that the reefs were undergoing natural cycle. So who do you believe?
The truth is, the reefs are not extinct or dead as yet, but they are not perfectly healthy either. In fact, they are under great stress. This has led to scientists coming up with unique solutions to save the reefs:
Super corals may be the answer
Super corals could be one of the answers to what is being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Super corals are being bred by researchers to fight global warming. These new lab-bred corals can be tested on the GBR within one year. The scientists hope to accelerate evolution as well as save the beautiful coral reefs from becoming extinct.
Scientists have got promising results from the cross-breeding of various species of corals. They are trying to develop strains of symbiotic algae which the corals depend on. They have been mapping out algae genomes to assess whether genetic engineering is possible.
Planting corals on the reefs
One of the major breakthroughs is the successful reproduction of algae in an aquarium in London. The production of algae in an aquarium has been increased, and would probably be planted on the Florida coast in 2019.
Snap freezing or cryopreservation process if being refined to create seed banks of the algae. If the process is successful, then the reefs may be sprayed with symbionts to help them fight the heat.
Perhaps the most promising solution is creating coral hybrids – corals from cooler water would be crossed with those belonging to warmer waters to create hybrids which can withstand heat.
So what is being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef? Plenty – though all scientists are not convinced with ‘assisted evolution’, or other methods of human intervention. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park authorities are one step ahead – they are working out a policy to permit intervention as well as strict conditions to do that in. But we all need to do what we can to reduce fossil fuel emissions so that the global temperature comes down, and the exquisite corals survive for centuries to come.