“Reports that the Great Barrier Reef is dying come ever more frequently, ever more urgently. There is no mystery about the reason — it’s global warming, caused by the fossil fuels we burn. If we stopped heating the oceans, parts of the great reef off Australia’s north coast and other spectacular coral reefs around the world could still recover. The alternative is to weep at the loss of one of the most spectacular sights on earth, as the author of the latest report and his students did on examining charts of the damage.
The death of coral reefs is a tragedy on many levels. There is the sheer beauty of the forests of brightly colored corals and the equally kaleidoscopic fish they harbor, a panorama that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. There’s their extraordinary variety and value: Coral reefs are found in shallow waters in only 0.2 percent of the oceans, yet they support a quarter of all marine life and provide protein for millions of people. Finally, there is the role of the coral reefs as the alarm system of the oceans: Highly sensitive to the temperature of water, the reefs can die from an increase of only two or three degrees Fahrenheit. The vast stretches of bleached coral speak to oceans in deep trouble.”
“Researchers led by Prof. Terry Hughes of James Cook University in Australia, the lead author of a report on the reef in the current issue of the journal Nature, were surprised at the extent of the damage. “We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” he told The Times. In the north, he said, two-thirds of the reefs are dead. And Australian government efforts to curtail dredging and pollution were not helping. “The reefs in dirty water were just as fried as those in pristine water,” he said.”