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UNESCO recommends Great Barrier Reef to be included in List of World Heritage in Danger - Worldrise Skip to main content

The Great Barrier Reef is well-known for being a refuge to an astonishing quantity and variety of ocean life, much of which is to be found only within its coral ecosystem. This idyllic site has however been plagued by various conservation issues, which may now be detrimental to its sought-after World Heritage property status.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

Since it was first inscribed on the List in 1980, the Great Barrier Reef has benefited from UNESCO World Heritage status and from the international interest and tourism drive that often accompany it. The adverse effects of climate change on the site, however, have taken centre stage in the World Heritage Committee’s deliberations to place the Great Barrier Reef on the List of World Heritage in Danger, owing to what it described as insufficient progress in meeting key targets of the Reef 2050 Plan, a plan devised by the Australian Government to set out the long-term framework for the Reef’s protection and management. 

The Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystem has long been struggling with conservation threats, such as the effects of coral bleaching and extreme weather events, like in the case of cyclones.

How rising water temperatures affect the Reef

Increasing water temperature in the coral reef area, attributed to greater greenhouse gas emissions, periodically triggers mass coral bleaching events. When stressed in this way, coral expels the photosynthetic algae that live in its tissues, becoming completely white in the process. The coral, deprived of the algae with which it had a mutually symbiotic relationship, is then more vulnerable to external damage, although it is still possible for the coral to recover. The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2014 made the worrying observation that the site may experience mass-bleaching events twice per decade from 2020 onwards, as a result of heat-stress from climate change. As more and more corals succumb to the rise in water temperature, there is also a reduced presence of the fantastically varied biodiversity that makes its home among the reef ecosystem.

How tropical storms affect the Reef

Cyclones also represent a danger to the integrity of the Reef. These destructive tropical storms can generate windspeeds of 360 km/h in extreme cases, significantly damaging corals lying in shallower waters, especially if they have already been affected by bleaching.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Pexels

The UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger

If UNESCO’s findings concerning the Great Barrier Reef are heeded, the property will be moved to a more urgent status of conservation. Although such a move would reflect negatively on the Australian Government, which maintains that “the Great Barrier Reef is the best managed reef in the world”, inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger does involve some mechanisms which may make it easier to preserve the site for the future. The World Heritage Centre itself describes the World Heritage In Danger List as “a system established to respond to specific conservation needs in an efficient manner”.

How can the List benefit sites?

The inscription of the Reef on the List would ensure the rapid development of a programme able to apply the necessary corrective measures as quickly as possible and to initiate a more thorough monitoring of the property. Additionally, inscription on the List would increase international awareness of the urgent challenges the site faces and inspire both the international community and individuals to contribute to its conservation. It would also enable the World Heritage Committee to allocate extra funds to help protect the Reef.

Photo by yang wewe on Unsplash

So, what can we do to protect the Great Barrier Reef?

The threats facing the reef are urgent, but there are certain things we can do to help protect this stunning natural site for the present and future! While the Great Barrier Reef may seem far away, a number of campaigns have been set up to allow people from all over the world to contribute to the site’s conservation. You may wish to “adopt a coral” with the Reef Restoration Foundation, an organisation that is working to grow new coral in specialised ocean-based nurseries. Another way ordinary people can help to preserve the Great Barrier Reef’s integrity is to donate to the Great Reef Census, a collaborative effort to survey the Reef and gather data essential to its long-term management. If you’re lucky enough to be able to visit the Great Barrier Reef, perhaps make the most of this opportunity and take part in planting coral as part of the Coral Nurture Program?

Other ways to help ocean conservation

All seas and oceans are connected! Why not translate your interest in conserving the Great Barrier Reef and volunteer for an ocean conservation or awareness-raising initiative near you? Worldrise has established many different types of projects that help to reduce our detrimental impact on the marine environment and increase public awareness of the huge importance of protecting our Planet’s oceans and their incredible biodiversity.

 

Sources:

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

Since it was first inscribed on the List in 1980, the Great Barrier Reef has benefited from UNESCO World Heritage status and from the international interest and tourism drive that often accompany it. The adverse effects of climate change on the site, however, have taken centre stage in the World Heritage Committee’s deliberations to place the Great Barrier Reef on the List of World Heritage in Danger, owing to what it described as insufficient progress in meeting key targets of the Reef 2050 Plan, a plan devised by the Australian Government to set out the long-term framework for the Reef’s protection and management. 

The Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystem has long been struggling with conservation threats, such as the effects of coral bleaching and extreme weather events, like in the case of cyclones.

How rising water temperatures affect the Reef

Increasing water temperature in the coral reef area, attributed to greater greenhouse gas emissions, periodically triggers mass coral bleaching events. When stressed in this way, coral expels the photosynthetic algae that live in its tissues, becoming completely white in the process. The coral, deprived of the algae with which it had a mutually symbiotic relationship, is then more vulnerable to external damage, although it is still possible for the coral to recover. The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2014 made the worrying observation that the site may experience mass-bleaching events twice per decade from 2020 onwards, as a result of heat-stress from climate change. As more and more corals succumb to the rise in water temperature, there is also a reduced presence of the fantastically varied biodiversity that makes its home among the reef ecosystem.

How tropical storms affect the Reef

Cyclones also represent a danger to the integrity of the Reef. These destructive tropical storms can generate windspeeds of 360 km/h in extreme cases, significantly damaging corals lying in shallower waters, especially if they have already been affected by bleaching.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Pexels

The UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger

If UNESCO’s findings concerning the Great Barrier Reef are heeded, the property will be moved to a more urgent status of conservation. Although such a move would reflect negatively on the Australian Government, which maintains that “the Great Barrier Reef is the best managed reef in the world”, inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger does involve some mechanisms which may make it easier to preserve the site for the future. The World Heritage Centre itself describes the World Heritage In Danger List as “a system established to respond to specific conservation needs in an efficient manner”.

How can the List benefit sites?

The inscription of the Reef on the List would ensure the rapid development of a programme able to apply the necessary corrective measures as quickly as possible and to initiate a more thorough monitoring of the property. Additionally, inscription on the List would increase international awareness of the urgent challenges the site faces and inspire both the international community and individuals to contribute to its conservation. It would also enable the World Heritage Committee to allocate extra funds to help protect the Reef.

Photo by yang wewe on Unsplash

So, what can we do to protect the Great Barrier Reef?

The threats facing the reef are urgent, but there are certain things we can do to help protect this stunning natural site for the present and future! While the Great Barrier Reef may seem far away, a number of campaigns have been set up to allow people from all over the world to contribute to the site’s conservation. You may wish to “adopt a coral” with the Reef Restoration Foundation, an organisation that is working to grow new coral in specialised ocean-based nurseries. Another way ordinary people can help to preserve the Great Barrier Reef’s integrity is to donate to the Great Reef Census, a collaborative effort to survey the Reef and gather data essential to its long-term management. If you’re lucky enough to be able to visit the Great Barrier Reef, perhaps make the most of this opportunity and take part in planting coral as part of the Coral Nurture Program?

Other ways to help ocean conservation

All seas and oceans are connected! Why not translate your interest in conserving the Great Barrier Reef and volunteer for an ocean conservation or awareness-raising initiative near you? Worldrise has established many different types of projects that help to reduce our detrimental impact on the marine environment and increase public awareness of the huge importance of protecting our Planet’s oceans and their incredible biodiversity.

 

Sources:
Autore: Thomas Roeder

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