Climate change: Does the Great Barrier Reef have a future? – knowledge

More and more coral banks are turning into a kind of ghost forest under the sea. Instead of flaunting their colorful splendor, hollows lose their color and stand there pale and white. Photo: —/Great Barrier Reef Foundation/dpa

The coral reefs of the planet are in danger. The Great Barrier Reef is in particularly poor condition. The natural wonder has been affected by the sixth coral bleaching since 1998.

Brisbane – If you take a dip in the ocean off the northeastern coast of Australia, you will literally experience a blue miracle.

Schools of tropical fish, humpback and minke whales, sea turtles, sharks, rays, colorful corals, or gently swaying sea anemones – the Great Barrier Reef, with its variety of fascinating creatures, is one of the most picturesque natural wonders on the planet.

But more and more coral banks are turning into a kind of ghost forest under the sea: instead of outdoing each other in the splendor of their colours, the hollows suddenly lose their color and stand there pale and white.

The world’s largest coral reef, visible from space, is at increased risk from ocean warming – and increasingly affected by severe coral bleaching. “The future of the Great Barrier Reef is on the brink, but it is not too late to save it,” Anna Marsden, director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, said on World Oceans Day on June 8.

70 percent of the earth is covered with water. The seas are of great importance for the survival of mankind: they not only produce a lot of oxygen, but are also a source of food, raw materials and energy. At the same time, they suffer greatly from climate change, as evidenced by the example of the Great Barrier Reef. “The oceans are a victim of global warming and at the same time our greatest hope,” wrote the German Association for Nature Conservation (NAPO).

early warnings

As early as March, experts warned of a resurgence of severe coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in light of rising sea temperatures. Since May, it has become clear: More than 90 percent of coral reefs are already affected. It is the fourth large-scale bleaching operation since 2016.

“Coral bleaching has been reported in all three areas of the reef, and the range ranges from moderate to severe,” Marsden, the foundation’s president, told dpa. In difficult conditions, corals get rid of the algae that cause coloration and otherwise live with it. Bleached corals are under severe stress, but – and this is the good news – they are still very much alive. “If the cause of its stress is removed and it becomes colder, for example, then the reef can recover.”

Climate change is by far the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs worldwide. However, other factors often play a role – this is also the case in Australia. “Poor water quality, coral-eating starfish, hurricanes and extreme weather are all part of a growing array of threats,” Marsden said.

Is there still salvation?

Experts are intensely searching for solutions. “We can save the Great Barrier Reef for generations to come, and we’re bringing together the smartest minds and the best science to do just that,” Marsden said. Successes have already been achieved. Among other things, methods of breeding more heat-resistant corals and preventing coral bleaching through cooling and shading. Studies also show that corals can be made more resistant to environmental stresses by administering probiotics.

The Great Barrier Reef was severely affected, but not dead yet, the Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) confirms. The site reads: “Reports focused on ‘how many corals have died’ indicate definitive.” But there are about 3,000 corals distributed over 14 degrees of latitude – and therefore there is not a single creature, but a huge ecosystem. “The area is larger than Great Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined.”

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