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The Great Barrier Reef
Transcript of The Great Barrier Reef
Socio Economic Impacts
By Mai Vo, Hannah Wong, and Megan Wright
Brodie, Jon, and Jane Waterhouse. "A Critical Review Of Environmental Management Of The ‘Not So Great’ Barrier Reef." Estuarine Coastal & Shelf Science 104-105.(2012): 1-22. Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Cressey, Daniel. "Future Of Great Barrier Reef Divides Scientists." Nature 515.7525 (2014): 16-17. Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Normile, Dennis, and Leigh Dayton. "Plan To Protect Great Barrier Reef Under Fire." Science 346.6210 (2014): 683. Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Fig. 1 http://thegreatbarrierreefalyssacavalli.blogspot.com
Fig. 2 http://www.coolplanetdesign.com.au/portfolio/infographics/
Fig. 3 http://ccres.net/images/uploads/publications/10/bleachingrelated_ecological_factors_report_final.pdf
Fig. 4 , 5, 8, & 9 http://www.livescience.com/23611-image-gallery-great-barrier-reef-through-time.html
Fig. 6 https://www.e-education.psu.edu/earth103/node/722
Fig. 7 http://sitemaker.umich.edu/gc2sec7labgroup3/over-fishing
Fig. 10 http://www.budget.gov.au/2004-05/ministerial/html/environment-05c.htm
Fig. 11 http://conservationplanning.org/2014/11/conversation-piece-the-plan-to-save-the-great-barrier-reef-is-destined-to-fail-unless/
Fig. 1. A map of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Source: http://wwf.panda.org
Area Of Study
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms.
It is composed and built by billions of tiny organisms and supports a wide diversity of life. It even supports people and is important to the local groups cultures.
Through this project, we will be looking at the human impacts as well as the impacts of
climate change in relation to the Great Barrier Reef. We will analyze these impacts in different sections on only a select few because through research, there are a lot of impacts that are caused by these two big factors. Some of the topics we will be covering will be tourism, severe weather events, fishing, bleaching, farming, and ocean acidification.
All of these topics are related to each other and will help observe the process to how to
better recover the reef. Over the years water quality has decreased because of human impact. Old ways of fishing, industrialized companies, and tourism affected the reef causing the quality of water within the reef to decline. Increased use of nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants on the land result in more of these entering waterways and the Great Barrier Reef as well. Not only human impact but another big problem affect the reef’s quality of life would be the climate change happening all around the world. The climate change is affecting the food chain structure within the reef and this can be very damaging. Even the slightest temperature change can damage the reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is an important contribution to the economy and to the
environment. It is home to a variety of tropical marine habitats including coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and major mobile biota such as fish, trurtles, dugong, whales and dolphins (Brodie & Waterhouse, 2). For this reason, the GBR is a main attraction for many traveling to Australia. Tourism generated by the Great Barrier Reef brings in over $5 billion per year and employs over 65,000 people (Hoegh-Guldberg and Hoegh-Guldberg ). But between 1985 and 2012 alone, the reef's coral had shrunk by half (Normile & Dayton, 683). The degradation of the marine ecosystem is caused by culprits such as tourism, fishing, climate change, and severe weather. And with the current environmental pressures and the impacts of human usage, the reef is beginning to decline in water quality as well as signs of life.
Based off of our research, there is more negative impacts than positive impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. Due to both human activity and climate change, the Great Barrier Reef has shrunk by 50% in the last 27 years. This is caused by declination of water quality, outbreaks of invasive species, climate change, and pollution. All of these negative impacts are connected. Pollution from human impact is a problem that declines the water quality within the reef. Furthermore, the impacts of climate change affects the structure of life in the reef, which means there is significant damage to the nutrients and organisms. Despite these factors, there are positive effects from efforts made to recover the reef. These efforts are active and supported by the Australian government, as well as volunteers. We looked at different statistics in the water quality decline in the reef in relation to the tourism rise and the climate change information given in class and other resources to determine the affects as well as looking over the efforts in trying to restore the reef.
In the end, the future state of the GBR must be called into question. The government of Australia has started to create efforts to save the Reef. However, these efforts do not address all the main problems that the Reef is facing. With that, scientific experts have implemented rezoning and a lot of regulation around the usage of the reef such as limiting the touch of things during snorkeling, as well as helping its recovery, in particular, the government creating funding to provide “farmers and land managers to assist them to implement techniques to reduce run off to the Great Barrier Reef catchment that contribute to crown-of- thorns starfish outbreaks (environment.gov.au)." The GBR is the best managed reef system in the world giving hope for the ecosystems to recover. However, this is going to take more than just scientist and marine biologists. Since human activity is a factor to the degradation of the reefs, we as a people need to take action and make changes.
"A large number of actual impacts (already occurring) and potential impacts that may occur in future given current trends have been identified from human activity, primarily in the last 200 years" (Bodie & Waterhouse, 6). These impacts are due to things such as fishing, farming, and tourism.
Fig. 8. Horseshoe reef before crown-of-thorns invasion. livescience.com
Fig. 9. Horseshoe reef after crown-of-thorns invasion. livescience.com
Fig.3. Sea surface temperatures and triggers for coral bleaching for offshore reefs near Townsville, central Great Barrier Reef. Source: ccres.net
Fig. 4. MacDonald reef before cyclone damage. Source: livescience.com
Fig. 5. MacDonald reef after cyclone damage. Source: livescience.com
Programs and Resources to Learn More!
Australian government actions in protecting the Great Barrier Reef:
10 steps in order to help protect coral reefs:
Ways to prevent damaging the reef when diving or fishing:
Rising temperatures in the ocean as well as rising acidities are forever changing the conditions in which coral reefs have prospered for years. This is now seen by many as the number one threat to coral reefs as oceans will continue to undergo sustained warming (ccres.net, 10). Climate change has been the leading cause for coral bleaching, ocean acidification, and severe weather events.
Severe weather events
Located off the north east coast of the state of Queensland, Australia, the GBR lays on the shallow continental shelf with an area of 344,000 squared km (Brodie & Waterhouse, 2). It contains more than 2,000 islands, many of which are undeveloped, and encompasses 3,000 coral reef systems (Cressey, 2). It has been managed as a National Marine Park since 1975 and is listed as a world Heritage area since 1981 (Brodie & Waterhouse, 2).
Over the last three decades sea water temperatures in the GBR have increased by 0.4 degrees Celsius and by the year 2100, it is likely that they will increase another 2 degrees Celsius ( Brodie & Waterhouse, 11). When the water gets too warm bleaching occurs, which is the loss of photosynthetic organisms in the corals that turns their normal colorful appearance to a brilliant white (Normile & Dayton, 683). Mass bleaching events can have an array of different outcomes. Where in mild cases, reefs can recover their color within months, and in other cases, the result can be large numbers of corals dying (ccres.net, 9). Corals closer to the equator have a thermal threshold of bleaching as high as 31 degrees Celsius while those at high latitude can bleach as low as 26 degrees Celsius (ccres.net, 11). Fig. 3 shows a thermal threshold of 29 degrees Celsius for coral bleaching near Townsville in the GBR. The horizontal dash represents the thermal threshold while the arrows indicate when bleaching was reported.
When La Nina began in 2010, heavy rainfall occurred on the eastern coast of Australia causes rivers to produce record flows that covered the coast with elevated concentrations of suspended sediment as well as nutrients and pesitcides caused by farming (Brodie & Waterhouse, 12). But the worst damage has been done by Cyclones. In 2011, Cyclone Yasi caused significant damage to corals in the GBR. It was reported that 15% of the total reef sustained some damage and 6% was severely damaged. Cyclone Yasi by itself is reported as being responsible for 2% loss in coral cover across the GBR (Brodie &Waterhouse, 12).
Fig. 2. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Resilience Based Management of the Great Barrier Reef. Source: coolplanetdesign.com.au
As more carbon dioxide concentrations rise in the atmosphere more carbon dioxide dissolves into the ocean, lowering the PH (Brodie & Waterhouse, 11). This acidification effect is known to reduce calcification in marine organism. Declines of 21% in calcification have been noted between 1998 and 2003 on the northern GBR and as a whole, the GBR has seen a decline of 14.2% between 1990 and 2005 (Brodie & Waterhouse, 11).
Overfishing leads to the fish population's inability to recover and thus resulting in a reduced biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems and fish population (Brodie & Waterhouse, 9). This ultimately alters the function of the ecosystem and its structure. This occurs by the extraction of top order predators, illegal fishing, death of discarded species, and the catching of protected species.
Fig. 7. The ecosystem of overfishing. Source: sitemaker.umich.edu
There have been large increases in inorganic nutrients dissolved into rivers since the 1960's due to inorganic fertilizer used on many farming crops ( Brodie & Waterhouse, 7). The impact of increase nutrient loading on water is known as eutrophication which can manifest as an outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) (Brodie & Waterhouse, 8). The destruction that occurs from COTS can be seen in before and after pictures in Fig. 8 and Fig. 9.
Tourism impacts on the GBR are relatively minor. The main impacts related to tourism are those associated with anchoring and diving. Anchors can be significant issues in heavily visited sites in the Marine Park because the anchor chains are capable of breaking multiple corals at each drop (Brodie & Waterhouse, 10). The same goes for divers, as sometimes swimming too close to corals will break off many branches . But fortunately, the Marine Park has regulated these issues by the use of zoning plans that limit activities and visitation to certain areas within the GBR.
Fig. 6. Impact of Ocean Acidification on coral reef ecosystems Source: e-education.psu.edu
Fig. 10. Variation in Zoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Source: budget.gov.au
Fig. 11. Lizard Island in the Great Barrier Reef Source: conservationplanning.org