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Great Barrier Reef Coral Cover Down By Half

Great Barrier Reef Coral Cover Down By Half

The most comprehensive survey yet of a coral reef system shows that Australia's famous Great Barrier has lost half its cover since 1985.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

A new study out from the Australian Institute of Marine Science shows that the country’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest ecosystem of its type, has lost more than half of its coral cover since 1985, with two-thirds of that loss taking place in the last 14 years. Only 10 percent of the loss was attributed to warming ocean temperatures; the remainder was due to storm damage and the proliferation of crown-of-horns starfish, a native pest. Researchers believe that “[a]t the current rate of loss…the Great Barrier Reef will lose half of its coral cover again by 2022.”

What’s the Big Idea?

The starfish population increase seems to be due to human development: “These [population] outbreaks occurred once in every 50 to 80 years before European agricultural runoff began. They now average once every 15 years.” While researchers recommend that Australian officials do more to control the pest, there’s still the issue of carbon emissions and the corresponding acidifying of the oceans, which will continue to discourage the formation of new coral in the years to come.

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