2018 - The Great Barrier Reef in danger

The Great Barrier Reef in danger


Located off the coast of Queensland, the Great
Barrier Reef (GBR) is home to thousands of spe-
cies, for example jellyfish, sharks and sea snakes.
There are more than 30 species of whales and
dolphins and the most beautiful fish you could
imagine. The reef is famous for its high number
of corals and for its bright and beautiful colours.
It has been Australia's main tourist attraction for
years, generating a profit of up to 6 billion Aus-
tralian dollars and creating about 64,000 jobs.
But all this could come to an end soon because the GBR seems to be dying. According to
the latest scientific reports, a phenomenon known as coral bleaching is destroying the reef
faster than anyone had expected, possibly leading to a total collapse by 2030.


Experts agree that the bleaching of corals is a natural response to environmental stress.
Corals have a close relationship with algae. Algae are important for the survival of corals
because they feed them through photosynthesis. Moreover they give corals their brilliant
colours. Due to global warming, rising sea temperatures over the past 30 years have put
corals to thermal stress. Too much heat means corals and algae separate, the algae taking
the colour with them. The result is white coral skeletons, which give the bleaching phenom-
enon its name. If corals go for too long without algae, coral bleaching can lead to the corals'
death. A satellite picture of Australia's east coast clearly shows that large sections of the
GBR have already gone completely white.

"This will change the GBR forever," said Terry Hughes, an Australian coral scientist. The
bleaching has been his worst nightmare and his research trip to the GBR has been the sad-
dest trip of his life. Hughes feels angry with the Australian government, who he thinks
should have acted sooner to prevent the current situation.

In addition to the biggest threat1, global warming, there are even more dangers for the species
living on the GBR. One of them is pollution which is caused by intensive farming. So fer-
2, pesticides and herbicides get into the sea via local rivers. To make things worse
chemicals from mining activities get into the ocean, too and harm marine organisms.

In 2015, the Australian minister Greg Hunt gave the green light to expand a coal port3 next
to the GBR which would then become the largest in the world. Its construction will make
it necessary to throw 1 million cubic metres of earth and rock into the GBR waters. This
could damage seagrass beds and therefore shorten the main food source for some marine

The GBR's ecosystem may have a chance if these extra threats could be stopped or at least
reduced. Areas where threats have been banned or limited have recovered from damage. It
is therefore up to the Australian government to wake up and act. But since global warming
is not likely to be stopped very soon, it might be too late for the corals.
So Australia´s main tourist attraction is in danger. A new survey recently found out that
tourists would spend their holidays somewhere other than Australia if the bleaching con-
                                                                                                                    (528 words)
Adapted from: "Read on" (08/2016), Eilers & Schünemann Verlag KG, Bremen;
bleaching-continues-poll (08.02.2017); https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/about-the-reef/facts-about-the-great-barrier-
reef (11.05.2017); https://theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/10/australias-politicians-have-betrayed-
the-great-barrier-reef-and-only-the-people-can-save-it (11.05.2017); https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/
kits/corals/coral02_zooxanthellae.html (20.09.2017)
1 threat - Bedrohung
2 fertilisers - Düngemittel
3 coal port - Kohlehafen