Bleaching the Great Barrier Reef
Temperatures are rising in the Pacific Ocean, and in 2020 the Great Barrier Reef could experience its third mass bleaching event of the past five years.
Massive bleaching is caused by warm temperatures that cause the algae inside the coral to explode outwards. This harms coral and turns it white, at which point it’s fragile and susceptible to disease. If the temperature continues to stay high, coral reefs will eventually die, degrading and ultimately eliminating natural habitat for many marine species.
Investing in companies that work to ensure our oceans, coasts, and reefs have a future is one way we can personally take action to help prevent further bleaching of coral reefs around the world. Newday’s Ocean Health portfolio includes and supports companies that are pushing towards these initiatives.
In 2020, Coral Reef Watch is observing the Great Barrier Reef and keeping track of this season’s bleaching. Although it isn’t projected to be as severe as the extreme bleaching that occurred in 2016 and 2017, there are still concerns about the long-term effects of rising temperatures on marine life. According to National Geographic, 30% of the coral perished in 2016, with an additional 20% perished in 2017.
In the past, marine heatwaves were primarily caused by El Niños and other tropical storms. So if the last El Niño ended in 2016, why is the Great Barrier Reef at risk today?
Many still do not believe climate change is real. Many believe that despite the mass bleaching in 2016 and 2017, the Great Barrier Reef is actually in excellent condition, and the mass bleaching is a natural and cyclical part of the ecosystem. (Fox) We wish we could say otherwise, but: we believe it is not natural. Scientists continue to compile evidence that climate change is caused by humans, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels in coal and gas-burning power plants, and from human transportation systems fueled by gasoline. As the planet continues to warm, the oceans will absorb tremendous amounts of heat from the environment. Coral reef studies are already reporting unprecedented behavioral changes in marine life following the bleaching and declining number of species and individual fish. With hotter heatwaves, melting glaciers, and rising seas — the future of the coral reef in the Great Barrier Reef is looking grim. A World Heritage Site, the Great Barrier Reef is the richest and most complex ecosystem on earth. It is home to over 1,500 species of fish, 400 species of coral, 4,000 species of mollusk, and 200 species of fish and other species. Climate change is real, and we need to find alternatives to fossil fuels and decrease our carbon emissions if the Great Barrier Reef and many of the world’s most vibrant ecosystems are to avoid collapse. We believe Investing in Newday’s Ocean Health Portfolio is an important and impactful way to take action, alongside making more sustainable consumer decisions and ensuring the public sector adequately responds to the climate crisis.