An obituary in Outside magazine has taken the world by storm, causing disbelief and shock to everyone, especially scientists. A food and environmental writer, Rowan Jacobsen wrote an obituary that “The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old.”
The Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was declared a world heritage site in 1981 by Unesco.
It was a 1,400-mile network of reefs, which had died following the “most catastrophic bleaching event in its history, from which it would never recover”, he added. In his article, he detailed about the life of the Great Barrier Reef, its active membership in the ecological community, its worldwide fame and the coral bleaching that led to its demise after deteriorating health.
According to a report by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, 93 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef is affected by bleaching, putting the reef in danger of extinction. The main reason for coral bleaching is increased water temperatures. It is known that when the corals are exposed to high temperatures it results in the corals expelling the algae that live on it, on which it’s dependent for its survival, thus turning completely white. This leaves the coral incapable to secrete shell to form colonies of millions of individuals. Fishing, mining and burning fossil fuels have also been contributing to this destruction.
In a state of horror and disbelief, social media went frenzy while grieving loss of the Great Barrier Reef and urging followers to pay serious attention to the consequences.
Even though writer Rowan Jacobsen isn’t a scientist, many outlets are claiming that scientists have pronounced Reef officially dead.
The chief of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Russell Brainard told HuffPost that he believes the article indicates urgency of the situations, and those without context will take it at face value. Supporting his thoughts, many have taken to Twitter to bring out the truth.
In one such instance, environmental reporter Tony Davis tweeted, “Reports of the Great Barrier Reef’s death are greatly exaggerated, say scientists, booing Outside magazine.” Scientists are increasingly worried that over-exaggerating the state of the Great Barrier Reef will promote the idea that it is past the point of recovery, CNN reported.
“The reef is no longer as resilient as it once was, and it’s struggling to cope with three bleaching events in just 18 years,” Professor John Pandolfi, from the ARC Centre at the University of Queensland, said to CNN.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, with more than 3,000 reefs, 600 islands and 300 coral cays. It was home to the world’s largest collection of corals , coral sponges, molluscs, rays, dolphins, over 1,500 species of tropical fish, more than 200 types of birds, around 20 types of reptiles including sea turtles and giant clams over 120 years old.
More than 2 million people visit it each year, and Australian government with its Reef 2050 plan, scientists and charities are working to keep its beauty safe for future generations.