Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Faces ‘Pretty Ugly’ Future if Restoration Efforts Don’t Improve


Australia’s world heritage site, the Great Barrier Reef, is in serious jeopardy as a result of ocean pollution and global warming.

What would happen if we lost the Great Barrier Reef?

Considered the “rainforests of the sea”, reefs play a major role in healthy ocean life. They make up only 0.2 percent of the ocean’s mass, yet one-quarter of all marine species live in reefs, including an estimated 4000 species of fish as well as crustaceans and reptiles along with bacteria, fungi and seaweed.

And according to Australian scientists, the magnificent Great Barrier Reef is now in the worst state it has been in since data has been recorded on its health. The scientists warn that within 40 years if drastic changes aren’t made, the situation on the reef will get “pretty ugly.” It may soon be listed as a world heritage site in danger, pending a Senate committee investigation.

“Scientists have told the committee the reef is facing threats from coastal development, such as a massive port-related dredging project at Abbot Point, farm runoff and poor water quality,” reports the Guardian. “The reef cannot rejuvenate after times of stress as it once did, the scientists say.”

According to reports from The Australian Coral Reef Society—the world’s longest standing organization for reef study—the coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef has halved since the 1980s.

While efforts have been in place to help restore the reef, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, said they are still inadequate and larger measures need to be taken to protect this critical part of the ocean.

Now, issues over dredging for expansion to the Abbot Point port in the area are bringing more concern to the health and viability of the reef.

“The threats are escalating,” Hoegh-Guldberg told the Senate committee. “It is time for a rethink. We are living in a fantasy land.”

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Related on EcoSalon

Is it ‘Global Warming’ or is it ‘Climate Change’?

Global Warming Gets a Titanic Wake-Up Call: James Cameron’s Eco Documentary

Overfishing and Ocean Conservation: President Obama to Tackle Seafood Fraud

Image: Richard Ling

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.