The Great Barrier Reef just got demoted.
The habitat was already in bad condition, but now one of the most complex ecosystems on our planet has been officially downgraded: from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor.’
Go on. Take one guess as to why.
“The significant and large-scale impacts from record-breaking sea surface temperatures have resulted in coral reef habitat transitioning from poor to very poor condition,” the Australian government reported in their Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report, released every five years.
The report lists climate change as the most significant threat to the reef long-term, with rising sea temperatures being the most immediate.
This is only the third comprehensive report by Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, with the first one issued in 2009.
But it’s possibly the most grim, with the report directly stating that “the window of opportunity to improve the Reef’s long-term future is now.”
“In 2009, the Reef was considered to be at a crossroads between a positive, well-managed future and a less certain one,” the report reads. “In 2014, it was seen as an icon under pressure, with continued efforts needed to address key threats. Since then, the Region has further deteriorated and, in 2019, Australia is caring for a changed and less resilient Reef.”
It doesn’t get much more urgent than that.
The authority is careful to reiterate that it’s not too late to save the reef, though it makes note that the challenge is significant. Not every habitat of the reef has been equally affected, as some parts that have escaped bleaching and other threats remain in good condition.
But, overall, it’s not looking too good. At this point, saving the reef would require the mitigation of climate change, the report says.
Why is the Great Barrier Reef so important?
The reef is considered to be one of the seven natural wonders in the world – and one of the largest living structures in the world. It’s so big, you can see it from space.
It’s also home to over a thousand species of fish, and hundreds of other types of marine animals.
But it’s loss wouldn’t just be devastating for biodiversity, it would also be a huge hit for the Australian economy. The reef contributes $6.4 billion every year to the continent’s economy and supports 64,000 jobs, according to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.