The Great Barrier Reef could be in imminent danger, according to a recent study by the University of Sydney, published in Global and Planetary Change. More than 125,000 years ago, during the Last Interglacial Period, sea levels and temperatures were greater than what they are today. That is why scientists are using that time frame as a model for what could be the future impact on coral reefs, if CO2 emissions continue at the current rate, unrestrained. This research is essentially the first examination of coral ~129,000-121,000 years ago and the reef’s response to rapid environmental changes such as ice sheet collapse. "The Great Barrier Reef is like a sponge cake -- the modern reef is just the last layer," lead author Dr Belinda Dechnik, from the Geo-coastal Research Group in the School of Geo-sciences, explains. She is tasked with this research as part of her PhD and responsible for analyzing parts of unexposed reef, now up to 40 meters below sea-level.With the help of an Australian Research Council grant, scientists studied specimens stored since 1970 and compared them to core samples taken from the reef in 2015. "The findings highlight the importance of increasing the reef's resilience now," Dr Dechnik said. The study suggests that during the last Interglacial period, the modern day Great Barrier Reef almost didn’t survive. Although Dr. Dechnik was specifically examining the Australian coastline, coral reefs all over the world are being altered and under the threat of climate change. Climate change is continuing to increase sea level, and until reef management can be regulated more effectively, there is the possibility we could lose this diverse ecosystem for good. A few things you can do to help protect coral reefs:
Reduce Pollution- carpooling, biking to work, disposing of trash properly, researching what you spray in your yard, reducing use of fossil fuels, etc.
Conserve Water- fixing that leaky sink, taking shorter showers, or hold off watering your lawn.
Volunteer Locally- planting a tree to reduce runoff, picking up garbage at a nearby park, or educating others about ways to protect reefs.
Practice Responsibility- whether diving, boating, or snorkeling, contact with a reef can cause permanent damage.
University of Sydney. "Great Barrier Reef almost drowned; climate implications: Pre-emptive attention to human impacts crucial ahead of sea-level rises." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170106092931.htm>.