October 15, 2016
by Chuck Bednar
Literary giant Mark Twain once said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” and according to scientists, the same is true when it comes to the 1,400-mile-long Great Barrier Reef in Australia – despite the recent publication of its obituary by Outside Online.
In that piece, author Rowan Jacobsen mourns the loss of the 25-million-year old community of coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean, which he referred to as “one of the most spectacular features on the planet,” to the effects of climate change and ocean acidification following “a long illness.”
“For most of its life, the reef was the world’s largest living structure, and the only one visible from space,” Jacobsen wrote in the piece. “In total area, it was larger than the United Kingdom, and it contained more biodiversity than all of Europe combined... [and] among its many other achievements, the reef was home to one of the world’s largest populations of dugong and the largest breeding ground of green turtles.”
Despite being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, he added, it experienced mass bleaching events regularly, and by the turn of the century, the waters surrounding it had become so acidic that they began to dissolve the reef itself. Ultimately, Jacobsen noted, it succumbed to these events – only, according to other scientists, the Reef isn’t quite dead yet.
‘Not too late’ to save the Reef, despite recent bleaching events
“It’s not too late for the Great Barrier Reef, and people who think that have a really profound misconception about what we know and don’t know about coral resilience,” Dr. Kim Cobb from the Georgia Tech School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences told the Los Angeles Times Friday.