The Australian Great Barrier Reef is an ecosystem exhibiting the greatest heritage of natural resources and diversity of organisms on planet earth. The Great Barrier Reef exists along the northeastern coast of Australia and extends above the approximated distance of 2300 kilometers (Richards, p. 2). It has a wide variety of plants and animals that exist within its boundaries. Some of the species found therein include 2000 sponge species, and not less than 300 species of mollusk (Richards, p. 2). Moreover, there are 14 sea snake species, 630 echinoderm species, 500 algae species, and many other species (Richards, p. 2). The diversity in the ecosystem makes it outstanding in the whole world since no other environment possesses such kind of characteristic that matches the Great Barrier Reef’s attributes. Owing to the importance of the environment has on the sustenance of organisms’ lives, the main objective of the Great Barrier Reef protection plans is to conserve the diverse species in this region (Richards, p. 2). This paper discusses the coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Special emphasis is put on corals and reefs, and the impact of climate on the Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystem.
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Among the most diverse ecosystems in the marine environment are coral reefs. Multiple species of organisms living in the marine ecosystems depend on coral reefs for survival. The formation of coraoccursfs occur mostly in shallow ends of the ocean The events leading to the development of coral reefs are the death of corals and the welding of their polyps through the aggregation of calcium carbonate residues (Ainsworth et al, p. 338). Coral reefs bear pivotal roles that yield good surroundings for the living organisms in the sea or oceans. For instance, coral reefs provide suitable ecological niches for sea animals and plants. Different kinds of organisms, including the mollusks, crustaceans, algae, and diverse species of hard corals have their niches in the reefs. Furthermore, the coral reefs provide aesthetic value to the marine environment and coastal areas, thus, making them attractive to tourists. The corals also improve water quality for the well-being of all living organisms depending on it for survival. Through the absorption of toxic substances, the reefs refine industrial effluents and detoxify them (Ainsworth et al, p. 340). From the context of coral reefs’ benefits, it is conceivable that their existence provides for the sustainability of diverse species of living organisms.
Corals Found in the Great Barrier Reef
The growth of corals takes substantially long perperiodshe annual maximum increment of corals’ length is approximately 20 nanometres. It, therefore, implies that the development of coral reefs also exhibits a long-term basis to attain a recognizable size. The Great Barrier Reef comprises diverse coral species, especially the hard types. The hard corals and symbiotically associated with Zooxanthellae which are unicellular marine organisms. The Zooxanthellae process food through photosynthesis and supply 95 percent of it to the corals for the development of their polyps. On the other hand, Zooxanthellae benefits from inhabiting corals and utilization of their wastes as sources of nutrients (Stepien et al, p. 1168). As the corals grow, old ones die, and their polyps aggregate through the deposition of calcium carbonate. The progressive death and growth of old and new corals yield to the reefs. Owing to the symbiotic coexistence between corals and Zooxanthellae, a type of living system called hermatypic corals exist. The hermatypic corals are attributed to the specificity of survival temperature range, and clear water demands to allow sunlight penetrations for photosynthesis (Ainsworth et al, p. 339). Therefore, the ecological conditions at specific points in the marine environment would affect the integrity of developed corals.
Different types of corals exist leading to intense biodiversity exhibited by coral reefs. Consequently, the diversification of coral species produces results in the various kinds of coral reefs existing in the marine environment. The major types of coral reefs existing are fringing and the great barrier reefs. The fringing coral reefs are attributed to the sea or ocean regions close to the shore. Moreover, the narrow waters act as their distinctive boundaries. Most of the fringing corals are found at the Thailand seashores. On the other hand, the great barrier reefs are aligned parallel to the ocean’s shores, and are their boundaries are defined by the formation of lagoons. In addition, they are attributed to existence on the slightly deep sections of the oceans (Day, p. 69). The great barrier reefs form when the tides are on the low seasons, and results from the rise of new corals upon the dead ones. A typical example of the great barrier reef is the Australian shoreline and largest marine ecosystem called the Great Barrier Reef.
Effects of Climate Change on Coral Reefs
The changes in the climate that occur in this coastal region affect the Great Barrier Reef. Some of these climatic shifts include fluctuations of the environmental temperature, excessive weather conditions in the rchanges change in the chemistry of the ocean, and a rise in sea level and storms within this region. Sea temperatures affect the region by causing global warming that interferes with the cover of coral by a process called bleaching. Bleaching of coral cover results in a reduction of various species within the reef since high temperature greatly affects them. Adverse weather conditions such as high rainfall and drought also interfere with the species in the Great Barrier Reef (Ainsworth et al, p. 341). The adverse weather condition usually contaminates the sea and disposes of materials that are terrestrial to the sea that further interfere with the Great Barrier Reef.
Changes in the chemistry component of the ocean also affect the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. The ocean has roughly absorbed a third of the carbon (IV) oxide that human beings emit when undertaking their various activities over the last 200 years. The amount of carbon (IV) oxide absorbed has highly affected the PH of the ocean in the Great Barrier Reef (Ainsworth et al, p. 340). It has resulted into the oceanic PH reduction by 0.1 units, making it to be extremely acidic forcorals survival. Moreover, the low PH interferes with the growth of the feeds in the ocean that are essential to the ecosystem’s survival. When the feed population is depleted, it becomes hard for different varieties of species to survive under the limited substrate quantities. Hence, the various species in the Great Barrier Reef are highly affected resulting in their reduction in number. From 1990, the sea level has been on the rise with a rate of 1 to 2 millimeters every year towards the projection of the model upper limit. The rise in the sea level is expected to interfere with the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. It is because when the sea level is high then the storms are likely to increase in this region (Frade et al, p. 4). The storms come along with king tide and tropical cyclonic winds that put the life any creature in the Great Barrier Reef to risk. Further, it interferes with the industry and any infrastructural feature in the region.
Coral Reefs’ Bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef
Coral reefs of the Australian oceanic shores are suppressed by the extreme climatic conditions. Following the fluctuations in temperature, and other environmental parameters like the acidity of the water, depletion of coral reefs occur massively. Strategic plans and policies are being implemented to curb the current and prolonged deaths of the Great Barrier Reef’s corals (Ainsworth et al, p. 339). Change in the climatic conditions of the Australian Great Barrier Reef is has subjected coral reefs into extreme bleaching side effects. Through biodiversity and ecological research, it has been determined that 93 percent of coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef are highly impacted by temperature ranges above the optimum levels (Richards, p. 18). The attack on coral reefs by extreme and persistent temperatures on the reefs is heavily experienced in the northern parts of Port Douglas. Initial bleaching effects resulted in the death of almost half of the coral reefs in the same area. On the positive side, the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef has recorded the very low impact of reefs’ bleaching (Hoegh-Guldberg et al, p. 86). Approximately, less than one percent of the corals’ population is attacked by the shifts in climatic conditions.
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The existence of corals and zooxanthellae in mutual relationship enhances the longevity of reefs’ ecosystem integrity. As the corals obtain energy resources from the unicellular marine organisms, a characteristic color is developed. However, the sensitivity of the association to adverse temperatures makes them susceptible to dissociation. At thermal conditions ranging between 1 and 2 degrees Celsius, the corals become suppressed (Stepien et al, p. 1176). As a result, the zooxanthellae is dislodged from the host, and polyps get exposed, thus, bleaching is said to have occurred. The extreme temperatures that persist for a long period of time foster a high rate of bleaching as corals die. Moreover, less impactful adverse conditions with recurrence frequency yield corals depletion or their reproduction impairment (Hoegh-Guldberg et al, p. 86). As a result, the growth of the young corals takes a slower pace leading to delay in ecological and biodiversity recovery. However, short durations of thermal fluctuations exhibit no impact on the corals, thus, no bleaching effects realized.
As a prospective move into the protection of the rich coral reefs ecosystem in the Great Barrier Reef, the implementation of policies should be put in place to overturn climatic changes. Knowing that extreme temperatures stem from greenhouse effect, circumventing the has to do with carbon (IV) oxide levels reduction. Moreover, pollution control has to be established to diminish the chances of industrial effluent dissemination into the oceans. The application of technology to drive in energy renewing and wastes recycling is, therefore, a requisite to reconstruct atmospheric conditions (Frade et al, p. 6). Australia should, therefore, be on the frontline towards terminating the global warming impacts on the world’s ecosystems. Otherwise, the bleaching effects of high temperatures will elevate in terms of the intensity and the great icon natural beauty and resources will be completely damaged.
- Ainsworth, Tracy D., et al. “Climate Change Disables Coral Bleaching Protection on the Great Barrier Reef.” Science, vol. 352, no. 6283, 2016, pp. 338-342.
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- Frade, Pedro R., et al. “Deep Reefs of the Great Barrier Reef Offer Limited Thermal Refuge During Mass Coral Bleaching.” Nature Communications, vol. 9, no.1, 2018, pp. 1-8.
- Hoegh-Guldberg, Ove, et al. “Commentary: Reconstructing Four Centuries of Temperature-Induced Coral Bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.” Frontiers in Marine Science, vol. 6, 2019, p. 86.
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