Bleaching the coral

The health of The Great Barrier Reef isn’t just bad, it’s very bad. That’s official.

The Great Barrier Reef’s outlook has been officially downgraded from poor to very poor due to climate change.

Rising sea temperatures thanks to human-driven global warming remain the biggest threat to the reef, a five-year Australian government report says.

They mean from bad to very bad. For some reason officials think we can’t deal with the word “bad” but we’ll be ok if they change it to “poor,” but “bad” is what they mean. In short the GBR is doomed, which is very bad (not poor) news.

Rising sea temperatures caused “mass bleaching events” in 2016 and 2017 that wiped out coral and destroyed habitats for other sea life. While some habitats remain in a good state, the condition of the site as a whole is worsening.

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

Scientists say the number of new corals plummeted by 89% on the reef thanks to recent bleaching events, which affected a 1,500km stretch.

Why does it matter if we kill off the coral reefs? Because they support so much marine life:

Coral reefs are the most diverse of all marine ecosystems. They teem with life, with perhaps one-quarter of all ocean species depending on reefs for food and shelter. This is a remarkable statistic when you consider that reefs cover just a tiny fraction (less than one percent) of the earth’s surface and less than two percent of the ocean bottom. Because they are so diverse, coral reefs are often called the rainforests of the sea.

It’s the biodiversity:

Biodiversity is the variety of living species that can be found in a particular place—region, ecosystem, planet, etc. Coral reefs are believed by many to have the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet—even more than a tropical rainforest. Occupying less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to more than twenty-five percent of marine life.

Why is that important? A highly biodiverse ecosystem, one with many different species, is often more resilient to changing conditions and can better withstand significant disturbances.

In addition, ecosystem services—benefits that humans receive from natural environments—are often greater in highly diverse places. Coral reefs, thanks to their diversity, provide millions of people with food, medicine, protection from storms, and revenue from fishing and tourism. An estimated six million fishermen in 99 reef countries and territories worldwide—over a quarter of the world’s small-scale fishermen—harvest from coral reefs.

And those estimated six million fishers feed six million x whatever people. Thirty million? Sixty? Six hundred?

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