Ecosystems at Risk

Topics: Coral reef, Climate, Erosion Pages: 2 (573 words) Published: December 12, 2010
risk - gbrThe 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 span 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.

22% 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...
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