Did Australia purposely overlook the fact that its Great Barrier Reef is dying? According to recent reports, the country asked the United Nations to leave the region out of a recent report on climate change. The Barrier Reef Foundation reports that the tourist attraction generates about $6 billion in revenue for Australia every year, in addition to being important to the local environment, so it’s a surprise that it wouldn’t be higher on Australia’s priority list.
The reef also contains a great deal of unique species, many of which depend on coral for their lifestyle and might disappear if it continues to die off.
Many tourists come to the Barrier Reef for its brilliantly-colored coral, which turns a dull white when bleaching has begun to kill it off. The New York Times discovered the Australian government was worried that tourists might be less interested in visiting if they knew the coral was decaying. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) got the goods on why coral bleaching occurs.
“When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. This is called coral bleaching. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.”
As can be inferred, the area’s problem is more than simply aesthetic. Species like Clownfish that make their homes inside anemones would likely be very endangered. The anemone also depends on Clownfish and other residents to lure food to it, so an extinction of either species could be disastrous for both of them. This type of symbiotic relationship isn’t uncommon in the natural world, especially below the sea, so each species’ endangerment can affect another.
The climate change report was written jointly by the U.N. and UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. On its website, the U.N. discussed other endangered natural sites, including the Cape Floral Protected Areas in South Africa. Some of the major environmental issues affecting endangered areas are deforestation and poaching of endangered and other species (which in turn can throw an entire ecosystem into turmoil). Pollution of the oceans is a major problem for sea creatures since some animals can die from accidentally ingesting garbage.
The U.N.’s report on climate change is released every few years, with the first one released in 1990. The U.N. body that writes the reports, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), does not actually carry out its own studies. Instead, it relies on data from already-published sources to come to its conclusions.
New post: WWF HAS RAISED $50 MILLION ON ITS REEF CAMPAIGN – WHERE HAS IT GONE??? https://t.co/dX5YqPZ5aL
— Great Barrier Reef (@BarrierReefOrg) May 2, 2016
There has been a great backlash on Twitter against Australia’s decision regarding the climate change report. An opinion piece on the blog Greatbarrierreef.org argued that the debate should be a ballot issue for Australians to vote on. The post also attacked Australia’s Land And Water Commissioner, Jock Laurie, for the decision to overlook the issue in the U.N. report.
What’s your take on the situation in Australia? Should we be doing more to clean up the oceans? Does Australia have a decent reason to keep the Barrier Reef out of the U.N. report? Let us know your opinions below.
[Image Via Acropora, Wikipedia.org, CC BY 3.0]