Great Barrier Reef In Decline - Oceana USA
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January 6, 2009

Great Barrier Reef In Decline

Here’s some bleak news for the new year: Australian scientists report that the Great Barrier Reef is growing slower than at any time in 400 years as a result of ocean acidification and rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change. The report showed that coral skeletal growth slowed by 14.2 percent since 1990. As the oceans’ chemistry changes, corals lose the ability to form skeletons, which is bad news for the creatures — actually, entire food webs — that rely on coral reefs, as well as the coastal communities who rely on reefs for tourism and coastal protection. One of the lead authors of the study, which appeared in the journal Science, said, “Algae will take over the area, small fish will lose their habitat, then the larger fish that eat the small fish will starve.”So what’s the point of no return for the GBR? Scientists are pointing at 2050 as the tipping point for coral reefs, and for ocean acidification in general. If we continue on a business-as-usual track with greenhouse gas emissions, we may be bidding the world’s coral reefs farewell mid-century. With just a few years to get ourselves on track to save the corals, there’s no time like the present to act.