Endangered Species

reef mapreef mapThere are now more than 40 species on the reef that are endangered. The two most threatened species are the dugong (sea cow) and the loggerhead turtle. The dugong population is currently just 3 percent of what it was in just and the loggerhead population has dropped by 90 percent in the same amount of time. Action must be taken immediately or these species could disappear from the Great Barrier Reef permanently.

Impact of Tourism

Over two million visitors each year travel to northern Australia to get a glimpse of the reef and all its wonder. That traffic can take a serious toll on the reef and its fragile environment. The negative affects of tourism include:

However, careful management has made sure that most of our activities don't threaten the long-term health of the ecosystem. Research has shown that tourism doesn't exert much pressure on the Great Barrier Reef because it is thinly spread over such a vast area. In addition, tourism operators have a vested interest in the health of the Reef, and act as watchdogs, alerting management authorities early if they see something going wrong. Fishing on the Reef is also carefully managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Queensland Department of Primary Industries, to ensure that it will be sustainable for many generations to come.

The True Threat

Ironically, the biggest threats to the reef does not come from visitor activities but rather from human activities on land. Water runoff and quality issues constantly threaten to change the make-up of the water around the reef and to affect the balance of life. Climate change and global warming have the potential to warm the waters around the reef which could lead to coral bleaching and the death of coral.

Water Quality and Run-off

Sediments and nutrients, fertilizers, pesticides, toxic chemicals, sewage, rubbish, detergents, heavy metals and oil run into rivers and out to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, where they can threaten plants and animals on the Reef. Land users and governments are now working together to improve the quality of water as part of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.

Climate Change

reef mapThe Earth is getting warmer, and is now higher than it has been for 2000 years. A large body of research suggests that this is due to greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Even small changes in temperature can have a devastating effect on the natural environment. Sea temperature rises of just 1 or 2 degrees celsius can cause coral bleaching and death on a worldwide scale.

The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2009 identified climate change as one of the greatest threats to the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef. Climate change may effect the Reef in a number of ways, including: