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Environmental Threats to The Great Barrier Reef - XtraNormal Education

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Published on Jun 16, 2012

Pollution, crown-of-thorns starfish and fishing are the primary threats to the health of this reef system. Other threats include shipping accidents, oil spills, and tropical cyclones. Skeletal Eroding Band, a disease of bony corals caused by the protozoan Halofolliculina corallasia, affects 31 coral species.

Pollution and declining water quality are key threats faced to the Great Barrier Reef. The rivers of north eastern Australia pollute the Reef during tropical flood events. Over 90% of this pollution comes from farm runoff. Farm run-off is caused by overgrazing, excessive fertiliser use, and pesticide use. The runoff problem is exacerbated by the loss of coastal wetlands which act as a natural filter for toxins and help deposit sediment. It is thought that the poor water quality is due to increased light and oxygen competition from algae.

The crown-of-thorns starfish preys on coral polyps. Large outbreaks of these starfish can devastate reefs. In 2000, an outbreak contributed to a loss of 66% of live coral cover on sampled reefs in a study by the RRC (Reefs Research Centre.) Outbreaks are believed to occur in natural cycles, worsened by poor water quality and overfishing of the starfish's predators.

The unsustainable overfishing of keystone species, such as the Giant Triton, can disrupt food chains vital to reef life. Fishing also impacts the reef through increased water pollution from boats, by-catch of unwanted species (such as dolphins and turtles) and habitat destruction from trawling, anchors and nets. As of the middle of 2004, approximately one-third of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is protected from species removal of any kind, including fishing, without written permission.

Shipping accidents are a pressing concern, as several commercial shipping routes pass through the Great Barrier Reef. Although the route through the Great Barrier Reef is not easy, reef pilots consider it safer than outside the reef in the event of mechanical failure, since a ship can sit safely while being repaired. There have been over 1,600 known shipwrecks in the Great Barrier Reef region. On 3 April 2010, bulk coal carrier Shen Neng 1 ran aground on Douglas Shoals, spilling up to four tonnes of oil into the water and causing extensive damage to the reef.

Information is from the Great Barrier Reef Wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_ba...

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