Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world, but the day is coming when scientists can no longer protect the fragile ecosystem.
Bleaching is killing off the living coral along the 1,400 reef stretching along the coast of Queensland.
The reef is a delicate chain of 2,000 separate reefs and 900 islands that are home to thousands of marine creatures.
Bleaching is triggered by warmer than average water that leads to algae living inside the coral to leave.
The coral than hardens and turns white.
If the water cools again, the algae sometimes returns and triggers the coral to stop calcifying, but if the water continues to heat, the habitat is lost forever.
Scientists blame global warming for the process and confess they can do nothing even though the Australian plans to spend £28 million on protecting the reef.
They have given up on rescuing the reef and instead have a plan to manage how reef’s ecology.
“The concept of maintaining ecological function refers to the balance of ecological processes necessary for the reef ecosystem as a whole to persist, but perhaps in a different form,” said a spokesperson for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority told the Guardian newspaper.
This ecological management could offer safe zones for fish, controlling erosion by waves and protecting parts of the reef as a tourist attraction.
A similar warning was also expressed by an independent expert panel that met in Brisbane recently to discuss how to tackle coral bleaching on the reef.
“The panel was united in their concern about the seriousness of the impacts facing the reef and concluded that coral bleaching since early 2016 has changed the reef fundamentally. There is great concern about the future of the reef, and the communities and businesses that depend on it, but hope still remains for maintaining ecological function over the coming decades,” said a statement.
“Action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases must be central to the response. This needs to be coupled with increased efforts to improve the resilience of the coral and other ecosystems that form the Great Barrier Reef. The focus of efforts should be on managing the reef to maintain the benefits that the reef provides.”