The Great Barrier Reef's Coral Threats
Think of the Great Barrier Reef, and thoughts of bright beautiful fish and a kaleidoscopic of corals come to mind. The Great Barrier Reef is one of seven natural world wonders and was listed as a World Heritage Area for protection. It is the largest collection of coral reefs in the world spanning over 1,250 miles; it extends along the north-eastern coast of Australia, along the eastern shore of Queensland. It stretches from the Torres Strait near the coast of Papua New Guinea to the Tropic of Capricorn between Gladstone and Bundaberg. The Great Barrier Reef contains 600 continental islands, 305 coral cays, and approximately 3,400 individual reefs (An Introduction, n.d.). "It is one of the most complex ecosystems on Earth, rivaled only by tropical rain forests in the richness of its species" (Landscapes, n.d., para. 4). The Great Barrier Reef has more than 2,800 species of fish, 400 different types of coral, and many other species of various animals depending on it to survive. The three greatest stresses on the Great Barrier Reef are coral bleaching, water quality, and the crown-of-thorns starfish.
Coral bleaching strips the beautiful colors from the coral of the Great Barrier Reef, and leaves a white skeleton. By definition, coral bleaching is "a process in which corals expel the algal cells (zooxanthellae) that normally live within their tissue" (Threats Bleaching, n.d., para. 1). High water temperature from global warming is thought to be a major contributor to coral bleaching. If the temperature of the sea goes above the long-term monthly average by as little as one degree Celsius, coral bleaching can occur. Two major bleaching events have occurred in the summers of 1998 and 2002. During these two mass bleaching events, up to five percent of the reefs were critically damaged, however, 60 to 90% of the reefs were affected during the mass bleaching event of 2002. The time that it will take for the Great...
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