Ecosystems at Risk
The negative nature and rate of change that is occurring within the Great Barrier Reef(GBR) is largely due to human induced activity. Coral reefs are vulnerable to the slightest of human impacts and the frequency in which we are doing so has dramatically increased over the years, increasing it to a global scale. Climate change along with pollution, overfishing and tourism are affecting the vulnerable ecosystems existence. Climate change is affecting the globe at an increasing intensity.
The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing many changes that it is unable to adapt to such as a rise in the average water temperature. The unnatural change physiologically stresses the corals and upset the critical balance that maintains their symbiotic relationship with algae that inhibits it. When this process occurs the corals lose their colour becoming bleached, the recognized biological effects reduce the calcification rates, weakening the skeletons and eventually eroding coral communities.Polar ice caps are also melting due to global climate change, having serious impacts on the nature and life p of coral reefs. As the levels slowly rise, fresh water inlets will be contaminated with salt water affecting the biodiversity of terrestrial vegetation in these fragile environments. Humans impact the GBR is through numerous paths of pollution, all of which can cause serious damage. Although not directly, deforestation has many long-term impacts, as well as sedimentation, fertilizers and pesticides, runoff and plastic build up.
2% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by land-based pollution; both chemical and nutrient based e. g. fertilizers, herbicides, human derived sewage and pesticides. 80% of the GBR’s adjacent land is farmland that supports agricultural production. The chemicals used to maintain the farmland pose long term damage to the ecosystem due to their high levels of phosphorus and nitrates. This runoff affect occurs when the farmer uses too much of the product to maintain his land, or it is lost to ground water.Sediments that flow out from rivers with large amounts of eroded material carry with it many of the pollutants stated previously from farms that border the reef at risk.
Tourism is vital to help people recognize and promote the value of protecting the Great Barrier Reef, but at the same time has certain elements involved with it, that are slowly taking toll on the environment, which will if not looked at closer, or eliminated all together destroy it for generations to come.Tourism is listed a s a major management issue to the GBR, because of the large amount of tourists and its value to the economy. The impacts range from low to high priority, and often trigger large infrastructure developments on islans and coastal communities, leading to further problems involving runoff and other pollutants mentioned earlier. Also associated with tourism, is the souvenir, ornamental and aquarium trade that severely affects the livelihood of the GBR.People taking home a small piece of the reef cause significantly widespread damage to the ecosystem and its biodiversity. For the Great Barrier Reef to be enjoyed for generations to come, protections laws need to be set, understood and most of all abided by. The nature and rate of change is fast increasing the decline of one of Australia’s most beautiful ecosystems that should be enjoyed without disturbances.
The fragile ecosystem is able to adapt to natural fluctuations and subtle changes in the ecosystem, but human activity is fast destroying it.