Great Barrier Reef Outlook Downgraded From ‘Poor’ To ‘Very Poor’ Due To Climate Change

Aerial views of The Great Barrier Reef are seen from above on August 7, 2009 in Cairns, Australia.
Phil Walter / Getty Images

A report conducted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has officially downgraded the outlook of the Great Barrier Reef from “poor” to “very poor.” The report is considered a devastating blow for the reef, reported BBC.

The reef, stretching over 1,400 miles, became a World Heritage site in 1981 for its “enormous scientific and intrinsic importance.” Under Australian law, the GBRMPA must submit a report on the condition of the site every five years. Due to the new findings, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is considering adding the reef to its “in danger” list.

As sea waters continue warming, the reef has become increasingly damaged over the years, killing off coral and other sea animals as a result. A report in 2009 found that the Great Barrier Reef was “at a crossroads between a positive, well-managed future and a less certain one.” Just five years later, this report changed to designating the reef as “an icon under pressure” that required immediate measures to fight off threats.

The most recent report from 2019 finds that the reef is currently on a downward spiral in terms of its long-term health. Since 2009, the region has further deteriorated, and Australia is currently caring for a changed and less resilient reef.

According to the report, mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 have killed off coral and destroyed other plant and animal life that depend on them. Certain areas of the reef have managed to withstand the changing conditions, though the site as a whole is in danger. Recent bleaching events have caused coral growth to drop a whopping 89 percent.

“Threats to the reef are multiple, cumulative and increasing. The window of opportunity to improve the Reef’s long-term future is now.”

Environmentalist groups are currently calling for more attention and protection for the endangered reef, asking for global action to be taken to save it.

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Director of strategy for the Australian Marine Conservation Society Imogen Zethoven commented on the issue.

“We can turn this around, but only if the prime minister cares enough to lead a government that wants to save it. And saving it means being a leader here and internationally to bring greenhouse gas emissions down. This is now the third Outlook Report. We’ve had 10 years of warnings, 10 years of rising greenhouse emissions and 10 years watching the Reef heading for a catastrophe.”

GBRMPA’s chief scientist David Wachenfeld confirmed that the agency believes that the devastating changes to the reef are caused by climate change. However, he remains optimistic that through global and local action, the reef can be saved.