RIP Great Barrier Reef? World’s Largest Living Creature Dying Fast

Rising temperatures and increasingly acidic ocean water have destroyed large portions of the coral reefs.

Published
Environment
2 min read
The Great Barrier Reef is almost no more. (Photo: iStock)

It’s official. Humans have destroyed the planet so much that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef -- a 25-million-year-old ecosystem -- is close to death.

Rising temperatures and increasingly acidic ocean water have destroyed large portions of the life-sustaining corals. These corals become bleached as they die. Only 7% of the reefs in the region have been untouched by this mass bleaching.

In a comic obituary for the reef, author Rowan Jacobsen said the Great Barrier Reef had been “an active member of its community”.

Coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef. (Photo courtesy: iStockphoto)
Coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef. (Photo courtesy: iStockphoto)
For most of its life, the reef was the world’s largest living structure, and the only one visible from space. It was 1,400 miles long, with 2,900 individual reefs and 1,050 islands. In total area, it was larger than the United Kingdom, and it contained more biodiversity than all of Europe combined. It harboured 1,625 species of fish, 3,000 species of mollusc, 450 species of coral, 220 species of birds, and 30 species of whales and dolphins.
Rowan Jacobsen in Outside Magazine

Reefs around the world have faced similar deaths and will continue to suffer as the world continues to release greenhouse gases and pollution into the atmosphere.

For decades, the oceans have absorbed a large portion of this atmospheric carbon, making its waters more acidic, but in recent years the oceans have reached their absorption capacity.

The Great Barrier Reef was predeceased by the South Pacific’s Coral Triangle, the Florida Reef off the Florida Keys, and most other coral reefs on earth. It is survived by the remnants of the Belize Barrier Reef and some deepwater corals.
Rowan Jacobsen in Outside Magazine

Liked this story? We'll send you more. Subscribe to The Quint's newsletter and get selected stories delivered to your inbox every day. Click to get started.

The Quint is available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, click to join.

Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!