The Great Barrier Reef has been declared dead in an obituary.
The obituary, written for Outside Magazine by Rowan Jacobsen, says, “The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness,” noting that the age of the spectacle was 25 million years.
The obituary can be read in its entirety here.
Great Barrier Reed dead ‘after a long illness’
This year’s coral bleaching event has been noted to have caused the rapid decline of the Great Barrier Reef, as noted by ABC News in a September story. The effect, as studied by aerial and underwater surveys over the last four months, can be seen in the 35 percent of coral in central and northern parts that have died as a result of bleaching.
“For most of its life, the reef was the world’s largest living structure, and the only one visible from space. It was 1,400 miles long, with 2,900 individual reefs and 1,050 islands. In total area, it was larger than the United Kingdom, and it contained more biodiversity than all of Europe combined,” the obituary said.
“It harbored 1,625 species of fish, 3,000 species of mollusk, 450 species of coral, 220 species of birds, and 30 species of whales and dolphins.”
The Guardian reported in September that much of the severity was seen in the remote northern third of the reef. Although a high percent of the coral has been killed in the reef, most of it is located in the area north of Port Douglas.
“The reef was born on the eastern coast of the continent of Australia during the Miocene epoch. Its first 24.99 million years were seemingly happy ones, marked by overall growth,” the obituary said.
Also read: UNESCO Meets Today To Decide Australia Great Barrier Reef Fate, Could Be Demoted To Endangered World Heritage Site
Great Barrier Reef Dead: Algae responsible for 90 percent energy
While the seafloor, the Guardian notes, is completely covered by coral, a large part of it is “dead” and “covered with algae.” According to Tim Flannery, a prominent conservationist and a Climate Council councillor who visited the reef in May, as much as 80 to 90 percent of the damage had been caused to the reed by then.
When the water around the corals remains warm for a long period, they start to beach. As a result, the algae that live inside the corals are thrown away by coral polyps; revealing the transparent, “white skeleton” that lies beneath. Since the algae is responsible for providing as much as 90 percent of the energy, without it the coral begins to die.
“To say the reef was an extremely active member of its community is an understatement,” the obituary notes.
“The surrounding ecological community wouldn’t have existed without it. Its generous spirit was immediately evident 60,000 years ago, when the first humans reached Australia from Asia during a time of much lower sea levels.”