Photo: Elite Readers
One of the best ecological spots blue chipped by the UNICEF World Heritage Sites runs in the subterranean seas of Australia. The barrier reef is home to the most notable coral species in the ecosphere. A marine park, it envelops a vast 344,400 square kilometers in area. It is undoubtedly good spread of the most handpicked and highly regarded types of coral groupings acknowledged worldwide. However, climate change has caused a setback to this habitat that needs immediate action from the Australian government and global ecologists. The concern emanates from the noticeable destruction of the reef pinned down mainly to bleaching. It is evidenced by heat stress and specific changes that come about when the role of climate deviations foreparts as a central key player. However, a look at the status of the alarm bears more than the factors identified to bleaching.
Concerns are high
What brought about the warning as substantiated by the ecologists’ observations of Australia’s northern part of the Barrier Reef indicating a massive death of corals is noted in the following:
- Runoff pollution – a runoff is a flow of water draining from lands to streams and other bodies of natural water movements that are constant. When well monitored, the currents feed the reef very well. However, due to pollution in the seas, the runoff flow has been transporting with it pollutants that affect the growth and even kill the growing corals.
- An increased number of Crown-of-Thorn Starfishes that feed on corals to survive.-they have grown a massive population outbreak. Them feeding on the sea fans disables the corals ‘ capacity to regrow and sustain life.
- The absence of predators that check crown- of -thorn starfishes’ population increase.
The wasting of coral reef species in the Australian Great Barrier is alarming. Many factors have come to light. They impact the survival of the reef tremendously. The following were first to come into play:
- Due to climate change, the temperature of sea waters has advanced so warmly producing a very acidic environment for corals.
- Bleaching- with the warm, acidic environment, corals are soaked and bathed in a hot environment for several months that results in heat stress. This unlikely hot environment is beyond the sea species coping causing massive death.
- Tourism- in line with the beauty of the reef, many tourists are encouraged to come and visit. Tours that include deep sea diving, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing tempt people to come in contact with the coral species that can get shattered or hurt by mindless chopping or cutting. It is noted that it takes about three years for an inch of a coral to regrow.
A deep sea symbiosis
The waters that house corals are born a homogeneity of sea species that creates a harmonious existence among them. An environment beneficial to one of the deep sea creatures may mean a loss of the rest. It is an identified status of the diversity that exists in the reefs. In its natural course, the symbiotic relationship starts healthy. There is a balance and check on the classes of population, consumption, reproduction, and mortality to equal the living conditions. But if one of the species overpowers the rest, it wrecks harmful effects on the rest causing some species to mutate.
The role of the coral thorn starfishes is attributed to their ability to improve coral species diversity. Specifically, they find nutrients on consuming plate corals and staghorn, both types of corals known to be the fastest among the coral varieties. In the process, the starfishes allow for the slow growing corals to increase their size and their species.
Despite their decisive role in the deep sea environment, there is a great concern regarding the outbreak (massive growth and population) of the crown of thorn starfishes that is overtaking the coral ability to reproduce to the point of massive wipe out. It is attributed to additional nutrients strewn into the ocean fetched by flooding. The other nutrients encourage the increased number growth of planktons that boosts the source of food for many sea animals. Among them the thorn starfish. The life cycle is advanced specifically when flooding from streams come in the months when the starfishes are into their high reproduction season. When the population increases, the coral consumption goes up as well. The starfishes consume the corals even before they can regrow.
The predators on the loose
What is regarded as another ground in the death of the barrier reef due to the massive population of the starfish is the lack of deep-sea species known as predators. They feed on starfishes and curve their population. It is due mainly to immense shell harvesting and fishing for commercial selling as a souvenir and decorative items sold in the market worldwide. In effect, the coral cover is wiped out. The predators that are to feed on the crown of thorn starfishes are dwindling in numbers. Their little habitation is attributed to tourism promotional harvesting. They include Starry Puffer Fishes, Humped Maori Wrasse, Giant Triton Snail, Sweet Lip Emperor among a few. They being there inhibits the starfishes action to grow in population. They don’t feed directly on starfishes, but their existence checks the growth of the crown of thorn starfishes.
The diversity of marine life needs to be guarded. Identifying causes of their extinction is a must. It is, therefore, imperative to address the factors that affect their healthy survival.