Great Barrier Reef Threatened by Climate Change, Chemicals and Sediment MICHELLE INNIS

Summary of Article: Due to climate change, and the constant flow of chemicals from local farms and coastal sediment into the waters that wash over Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, large threats have been placed on the reef itself and the many biodiverse organisms and species that inhabit it. In late November of 2016, scientists from the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies reported that during the summer of 2016, the reef had suffered the worst coral bleaching and die-off ever recorded. Due to the atrocity that it faced that summer, it was left with stretches of its northern reaches dead after the coral was bathed in warm summer waters.

In recent updates from Queensland’s environment minister, Steven Miles, it was stated that of 151 planned solutions, including the limiting of sediment and chemical runoff from farms and the better management of starfish predators, 32 are completed and 103 have begun or are about to. Ian Chubb, former chief scientist of Australia and current chairman of an independent panel on the reef, recently warned that climate change is what poses the most significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef. “The major impacts on the reef will most likely result from the long-term release of substantial quantities of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” Chubb wrote.

The Queensland and federal government have stated that halting nitrogen runoff from farms and sediment that leaches into the ocean will allow for improvements in the water quality and allow the reef to better survive and withstand the impacts of climate change. It is important to begin saving the reef now, since “virtually all of the relevant science indicates the Great Barrier Reef is in decline.” The Australian government ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change in early November 2016. The target is to cut greenhouse gas emissions to between 26% and 28% of 2005 levels by 2030. However, environmentalists say the development of new coal mines exposes the government’s lack of commitment to halting global warming.

Analysis of Article: The impacts, both good and bad, that humans have caused to the environment and its many ecosystems, has led to changes in how they function and how well or poorly they thrive. Due to climate change, the increase in sediment in waterways and oceans, and the addition of various chemicals to aquatic ecosystems, environments such as the Great Barrier Reef have seen declines itself and in the life that inhabits it. Scientists have recently reported that climate change poses the most significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef. The human population is at fault for this issue, so it is important that change is sought to fix and reverse the changes.

Coming up with solutions such as limiting the amount of sediment and chemical runoff from farms, and better manage predators such as starfish in the Great Barrier Reef can better the alterations that have already been brought upon the ecosystem. By having countries make and enforce laws that regulate what goes in and out of the Reef, and how it is used by the human population, less of a human footprint will be left. Countries who join treaties and agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, are important because this enforces regulation of the environment at the highest levels, and all people and corporations must abide by them.

My Big "Takeaway": The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef in existence, and humans are responsible for its downfall. As people of science, it is important that we recognize the damage and threats we are causing to the environment we inhabit and make efforts to fix the problems that we have created for ourselves and the ecosystems that we coexist with. Due to the increase of chemicals finding their way into our oceans, sediment piling up quickly in large bodies of water, and the presence of a rising global climate, many ecosystems around the world have begun to deteriorate. This has posed a threat and become an issue because of the many functions these ecosystems serve, such as housing thousands of diverse organisms and providing humans with resources.

As seen with the Great Barrier Reef, it is essential that the human population takes steps towards reversing the harmful effects that have been caused. By enforcing regulations and making law at the government level, steps towards change are possible. Agreements such as the Paris Agreement encourage countries and societies to band together and work towards achieving their goals to save the environment.

Check out this video for some quick facts on the Great Barrier Reef...!

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