Great Barrier Reef

Dominique Verdeschi

What is the Great Barrier Reef?

The Great Barrier reef is the world's largest coral reef and one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The reef covers an expansive 1,300 miles and is home to over 400 coral species as well as a diverse array of tropical fish, birds, and reptiles. The reef is also a habitat for many endangered species.

Key Facts

  • The Great Barrier Reef has suffered 8 coral bleaching events in the past 35 years due to rising ocean temperatures.

  • Ocean acidification is expected if the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere rise above 500 parts per million.

  • Scientists predict a huge decline in biodiversity in the reef within 10 years.

  • Coral reefs can recover from bleaching if enough time is given between bleaching events and there are good ocean conditions.

  • By 2050 it is predicted that there will be annual bleachings. As carbon dioxide levels climb, ocean acidification will inhibit the reefs ability to recover.
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Global warming is causing a huge impact on ecosystems in The Great Barrier Reef.

  • Global warming is causing forced migration of many species. The cold water species of the Great Barrier reef are being forced to seek colder or deeper waters and warm water species are moving in to the now warmer waters.

  • Warmer water diseases are being introduced to cold water species. The rising temperatures are optimal for coral pathogen growth.

  • Coral bleaching is occurring more often as temperatures rise above the normal levels that coral can tolerate. As a result corals are expelling their symbiotic algae and exposing white skeletons.

Coral Bleaching in The Great Barrier Reef

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What is the future of The Great Barrier Reef?

  • If today's global warming trends continue, annual bleaching is projected to occur by 2030.

  • Due to the fact that recovery from a die-off as a result of coral bleaching takes about a decade, by 2050 it is predicted that opportunistic and non-nourishing algae will take over.

  • Increase in CO2 levels will increases ocean acidification which will in turn inhibit the resilience of the coral. This acidification will also inhibit the ability of sea creatures and coral build shells and skeletons.

  • With the decrease in coral populations will come a decrease in biodiversity as the reef cannot support the amount of species it once was able to.

  • All of this is likely to harm the nearby economy since tourism and fishing are a huge part of the economy in this area.


  • Australia would reap huge benefits from majorly reducing the use of coal and creating a national renewable electricity standard.

  • Australia could adopt an Emissions Trading System like that of New Zealand. This would require emission sources to buy credits to cover their emissions and reduce their emissions to sell credits.