Coral crisis for Great Barrier Reef

High praise: The Great Barrier Reef is one of David Attenborough’s favourite places in the world. © Alamy

Can we save the reef before it is too late? The Great Barrier Reef is dying: experts have found that over half of its corals have been lost. To save the rest, they say, we have to act fast.

What’s happening

Below the clear blue water, more than 9,000 species of creatures live surrounded by miles of beautiful coral.

The Great Barrier Reef is huge — it is the only living thing visible from space. But it is dying. The whole ecosystem is under threat from rising sea temperatures.

Find out more

Corals are groups of animals called polyps. They form an important relationship with algae that live inside the reefs. Algae make sure a coral gets its food and give it its colour.

Coral bleaching happens when the water gets too warm. The coral becomes stressed and the algae leave. With no food source, it loses its colour. If corals are bleached for too long, they can die.

Last week, a report announced that the Reef had lost half of its corals since 1995. Experts say global warming has made sea temperatures so high that corals cannot recover from bleaching.

The Great Barrier Reef is home to over 1,500 species of fish and more than 30 species of mammal. The corals are vital to their survival.

Can we save the reef before it is too late?

Some say…

Yes! We have to. Coral reefs are home to 25% of the world’s marine species that provide food for local communities. Their huge, strong structures protect coastlines from erosion. They are popular tourist attractions that provide jobs for local people. Corals are also used to make medicines that save lives.

Others think…

No. Coral bleaching is part of the much wider problem of climate change. Instead of only focusing on saving the Great Barrier Reef, we should be thinking about the bigger picture. We must battle climate change all around the world. Only then can we prevent thousands more species from dying out.

You Decide

  1. Would you prefer to explore the Amazon rainforest or visit the Great Barrier Reef?

Activities

  1. Imagine you have gone on a scuba diving trip around the Great Barrier Reef. Write a diary entry about your journey.

Some People Say...

“For years, we thought the oceans were so vast…that nothing we could do would have an effect upon them. But now we know that was wrong.”

David Attenborough

What do you think?

Word Watch

Species
A group of animals that can mate with one another but not with those of other groups. For example, dogs are one species and different breeds can mate – like a Poodle and a Labrador.
Ecosystem
The community of all the plants and living creatures acting together in a particular area.
Algae
Very simple plants, such as seaweed, that have no real leaves, stems or roots, and that grow in or near water.
Stressed
Upset by a sudden change in surroundings. Corals are stressed when the temperature or light changes unexpectedly.
Global warming
The increase in temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere that is caused by the increase of particular gases, especially carbon dioxide
Vital
Necessary to life. It comes from the Latin word for life.
Marine
Having to do with the sea. A marine animal is one that lives in the sea.
Erosion
The wearing away of the Earth’s surface by water or wind. Coastlines are in danger of erosion, especially when sea levels rise.

Subjects

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