What is happening to the Great Barrier Reef?
Made up of around 3,000 individual reefs, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in Australia. It includes coral reefs, which are formed when baby corals settle and grow hard skeletons. Over time more and more corals settle, to eventually form reef ecosystems.
Corals and the reef they form provide food, shelter, resting and breeding grounds for other marine species, acting as nurseries and refuges to protect critical biodiversity.
But the Great Barrier Reef, and coral reefs around the world, are some of our planet’s most vulnerable ecosystems. Already, climate change has claimed half the world’s reefs. If we don’t take bold action now, they could vanish completely in our lifetime.
Warmer water temperatures caused by climate change are leading to more frequent and severe mass coral bleaching events, where corals eject the algae that gives them their vibrant colours and turn white. Bleached corals are not dead, but they are more vulnerable to starvation and disease.
Rising water temperatures also force marine species to move to cooler habitats, disrupting food supplies, breeding cycles and entire ecosystems. Climate change is considered the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef, as well as all the species that call it home.