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What one survey found about the declining health of the Great Barrier Reef

What one survey found about the declining health of the Great Barrier Reef

Australia's National Coral Bleaching Taskforce recently released data on the state of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's most beautiful natural sites. The survey found that 93 percent of coral reefs in the region off of the country's northeast coast exhibited signs of bleaching, a known symptom of poor health. 

Coral reefs are an important ecosystem for countless aquatic animals, but scientists also use them as a means of gauging ocean conditions. Such extensive bleaching implies that undersea environments are in very poor health.

Visible from space
The Great Barrier Reef isn't just any old coral reef. According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, this unbelievable group of coral reefs stretches for 132,973 square miles and is visible from outer space. All told, the area is almost half the size of Texas.

A collection of over 3,000 individual reefs, cays and inshore islands, the Great Barrier Reef is home to a dizzying array of undersea creatures. This includes sharks, turtles and countless species of fish, as well as many types of animals found nowhere else in the world. As many as 30 species of dolphins and whales can be found in the region, feasting on fish and using the calm waters to rear their young.

Grave danger
Reefs are comprised of corals, which are actually primitive animals, not plants. When these creatures are unhealthy or stressed, corals release the algae that lives inside their bodies. The algae gives corals distinct and wonderful color, but also provides nutrients necessary for growth, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reported.

Adverse conditions such as high water temperature or pollution can cause coral bleaching, which leaves the reefs vulnerable to disease and mortality. The survey conducted by the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce found that this extensive bleaching - possibly caused by a combination of global warming and the El Nino weather patterns -  is perhaps four or five times worse than any other known bleaching event.

Time Magazine reported that some areas of the reef are expected to recover, but during that time, the animals that live in the region could be at risk. Many species of fish and other creatures use the reef for protection from predators, and have adapted intricate camouflage as a result. When the reefs turn white, the colorful fish stand out and lose an important defense mechanism.

Rising global temperatures will put extra stress on the world's oceans, and ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef and other sites around the globe will struggle to adapt to increased levels of carbon and heat in the water. When anomalies like El Nino happen, the effect will be stronger and even more bleaching could occur.

Taking paid surveys with Opinion Outpost is an easy way to make money from home online and pay for scuba or snorkeling gear during a trip to the Caribbean or other tropical beach destination. For these regions, tourism may be supported by beautiful coral reefs, meaning an environmental catastrophe in the ocean could impact people on land as well.

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