Great Barrier Reef: A Heartbreaking Discovery
The World’s Largest Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a tremendous life form:
- · Comprising more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands
- · Encompassing an area of 133,000 square miles
- · Containing 1,500 species of fish and 400 species of coral
- · Creating the world’s largest single structure made up of living organisms
But the reef is suffering – from increasing water temperatures, pollution, coral bleaching and crown-of-thorn starfish. A 2005 study estimated that 95% of the reef’s coral will be dead by 2050. That’s bad news.
The worse news is that I think it’s already 95% dead. I was so looking forward to the dive of my life, when I descended into utter grayness. The bottom of the ocean was littered with what looked like broken antlers. It was a graveyard. And it was heartbreaking.
The reef is basically an accumulation of coral skeletons that form a structural base for living corals to grow. And while corals can regenerate, it takes nearly 1,000 years for a reef to add just 1 meter of height.
Since most of the coral destruction is due to increasing water temperatures, there is little we can do. In fact, as little as a 1.5 degree temperature increase can do irreparable harm to the reef’s coral. El Nino years, in particular, cause huge devastation to the reef.
A friend I met on the dive boat visited the reef in 1999 and he said it was totally different – colorful, bountiful – alive. And while I did see my first sea turtle, a sting ray and a black-tip shark, there was little spectacular about the dive. We both agreed we wouldn’t pay to dive the reef again. So sad.
This entry was posted on Friday, February 11th, 2011 and is filed under Asia Pacific.