Australian Great Barrier Reef faces threats of extinction; UN proposes to put in “danger list”


New Delhi: United Nations experts say Australia’s Great Barrier Reef should be listed as a world heritage site that is “in danger” and warned that the world’s biggest coral reef ecosystem was significantly “impacted by climate change” and warming of oceans.

A UNESCO Commissioned report released on Monday said, that world biggest coral reefs ecosystem was being affected significantly by climate change and that its resilience has been substantially compromised.

The report came after an official visited the reef in March and recommended the Australian government to adopt stringer emission reductions policies to limit the global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius.

The report cites frequent mass bleaching and increased water acidity among the increased threats to corals, impacts which can be attribute to uncurbed emission.

The Great Barrier Reef is world’s largest coral reefs system composed over 2,900 individual reefs stretching for over 2,300 kilometres, over an area of approximately 348,000 square kilometres.

Reef also holds significance, as it contains a collection of 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc.

It also holds great scientific interest as the habitat of species such as the dugong (‘sea cow’) and the large green turtle, which are threatened with extinction.

Reacting to the report, Australian Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said, “We’re investing in projects that will improve water quality and remove marine plastics from the Reef”.

Acknowledging the UNESCO report, the Minister said the reef was under threat but putting in the Great Barrier Reef in danger list is a step too far.

“We’ll clearly make the point to UNESCO that there is no need to single the Great Barrier Reef out in this way,” she told reporters.
“We’re dedicating $20 million to assist corals to evolve and support natural restoration of damaged reefs” she added.

The Minister said, “We’re providing extra support for marine scientists to further strengthen their reputation as the best coral reef managers in the world”.

The report, drafted by experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and UNESCO, acknowledged Australia’s commitment to protecting the reef.

But it found that despite the “unparalleled science and management efforts”, the reef still faced “considerable pressures” linked to climate change and pollution from agricultural runoff.

Australia’s recently elected Labor government has pledged to spend A $1.2 billion ($800 million) in coming years to protect the reef. The parliament in September passed legislation for net zero emissions by 2050.

Although Labor has strengthened Australia’s climate policies and invested more in the Great Barrier Reef, its policies and actions are not in line with the recommendations made by the UNESCO report.

“Though efforts to address climate change have ramped up recently, particularly research on coral restoration, “utmost urgency” is required to save the reef, the report said.


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