The Effects of Global Warming on the Great Barrier Reef
Coral reefs around the world are in danger. One of the causes is global warming, which has been increasing the temperature of the ocean water resulting in coral bleaching. This essay will focus on damage occurring to the Great Barrier Reef.
What is a Coral Reef?
A coral reef is a ridge formed in shallow ocean water by accumulated calcium-containing exoskeletons of coral animals, certain red algae, and mollusks. Coral reefs are tropical, forming only where surface waters are never cooler than 20° C (68° F).
The only difference between a barrier reef and a coral reef is that a barrier reef occurs farther offshore, with a channel or lagoon between it and the shore.
The outer layer of a reef consists of living animals, or polyps, of coral. Single-celled algae called zooxanthellae live within the coral polyps, and a skeleton containing filamentous green algae surrounds them. The photosynthetic zooxanthellae and green algae transfer food energy directly to the coral polyps, while acquiring scarce nutrients from the coral. The numerous micro habitats of coral reefs and the high biological productivity support a great diversity of other life.
The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a chain of coral reefs in the Coral Sea, off the northeastern coast of Australia. The largest reef in the world, it extends about 1250 mi from Mackay, Queensland to the Torres Strait (between Australia and New Guinea.)
The Great Barrier Reef is home to a remarkable number of organisms. The coral itself is made up of the skeletons of tiny, flowerlike water animals called polyps, held together by a limestone substance produced by a type of algae. Hundreds of species of polyps form coral in a beautiful range of colors and shapes. The reef also supports many larger water animals, including as many as 2,000 species of fish.
Global warming is the increase in the earth's temperature caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and methane) in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases prevent infrared radiation from escaping into space, and this greenhouse effect maintains the earth's warm temperature. Increasing levels of greenhouse gases, resulting from industry and the burning of fossil fuels, may result in rising global temperatures, causing coastal flooding and major climatic changes. According to the British Meteorological Office, 1995 was the warmest year on record and global temperatures continued to rise. A United Nations panel of scientists has predicted that if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, the average global temperature could rise by 1° to 3.5° C (1.8° to 6.3° F) by the year 2100.
Coral reefs are threatened by global warming. They can only live in waters between 18 C and 30 C. Therefore, with the increase in temperature of the surrounding water, there has been an unprecedented increase in...