© Global Change Institute

A Reef in crisis – Act now

With the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority detailing the Reef’s latest mortality rates, we’re calling on the federal government to acknowledge the Reef is in crisis and to urgently revise its Reef 2050 Plan to help protect our national treasure.

This petition is now closed, for more news on the reef sign up here.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world. Renowned for its beauty, vibrant corals and an array of astounding marine life, from ancient sea turtles to elusive dugongs. It’s a place Australian’s love to explore, and should be protected for generations to come.

 

However, recent reports reveal bleaching has killed almost 50% of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral in just two years. The Reef is at a tipping point. We must continue our fight and urge the Australian Government to act.

 

Currently, the Australian Government’s plan to save the Reef does not include a commitment to reduce greenhouse pollution to a Reef-safe level"

Richard Leck

WWF-Australia Head of Oceans


 

Together we must protect the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage site. Please sign our petition urging the Australian Prime Minister to act now. You’ll send a powerful message that you care for the Reef, you want to see action, and as one of its custodians you want to ensure it is protected for future generations. 

Together, we’ll send a powerful message that will be too loud to ignore: No Australian wants to say goodbye to the Reef.

Coral, coal, and climate change

Climate change - driven by the mining and burning of fossil fuels like coal - is warming our oceans and bleaching coral reefs worldwide, including our Great Barrier Reef.

If we act now – the Reef’s true colours can have a fighting chance to recover. If we don’t, climate change will continue to have severe impact on water temperatures, and if carbon pollution isn’t reduced, the Reef will see severe coral bleaching more frequently – which not only impacts coral communities but also the marine life that depends on it.

 

Coral communities have a good capacity to bounce back but they need a decade or more between severe impacts.”

Dr Terry Done

Former Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science

What is coral bleaching?

When we mine and burn coal we produce dangerous greenhouse gas pollution that causes our planet, including our oceans, to heat up. If the water stays too hot for too long, our vulnerable corals lose their colour (bleach) and often die.

Corals are actually tiny animals called polyps. Microscopic algae called zooxanthellae live inside their cells. These algae turn sunlight into energy and up to 95% of the nutrients they make are leaked to the coral.
Early signs of Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching at Moore Reef on February 27, 2017 © Global Change Institute
In return, the zooxanthellae have a safe place to live and receive nutrients from the coral’s waste. However, in certain conditions this mutually beneficial relationship becomes destructive.

When the water is hotter than the average for as little as four weeks, combined with bright sunshine, the algae go into overdrive and can produce toxic levels of oxygen.

As a self-defence mechanism the corals shed the algae, and their colour along with it. (Coral polyps are actually clear, it is the algae that give coral its beautiful colour.)

Without the algae, the coral's bright white skeleton is revealed through its transparent tissue. This is what we call ‘bleaching’.

If temperatures return to normal relatively quickly, corals can regain their algae and survive. But if not, corals no longer receive enough food. They go into a downward spiral, losing fat and other energy reserves, becoming weak, and susceptible to disease.

When bleaching happens across a whole reef it is known as ‘mass bleaching’ and when bleaching is prolonged, whole reefs can die.

It is possible to maintain the rich vibrancy, health, and true colours, of our beautiful Reef.

But only if we rapidly shift to clean, renewable energy. The window to save the Reef is closing and we need to act fast.

Australia must speed up the transition to clean energy

 

Beyond addressing global warming, improving water quality and proper fisheries management are also vital to reef recovery.  

 

Because of this WWF is dedicated to establishing a fund to repair Great Barrier Reef catchments and assist farmers to adopt cleaner, more profitable practices.

Fish and coral in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia © Shutterstock / Debra James / WWF

© Shutterstock / Debra James / WWF

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© Sian Breen / WWF-Aus

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