ecology and the economy

Global warming is projected to have dire ecological consequences, with the potential to decimate entire ecosystems, such as reefs and estuaries.

The vulnerability of corals to future climate change has received considerable attention, as impacts on them have already been observed. Coral bleaching has begun to increase in frequency and severity due to rising sea temperatures. These events have led some experts to claim that coral reefs around the world are ‘in crisis’. Mass coral bleaching has occurred worldwide, devastating reefs in some regions including the Maldives, Seychelles and Palau. The Great Barrier Reef has not suffered extensive damage due to coral bleaching. However, approximately five per cent of reefs in the Great Barrier Reef were severely damaged in each of the 1998 and 2002 mass coral bleaching events. Projections of future water temperatures suggest coral bleaching could become an annual event in the course of this century*1.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could lose 95% of its living coral by 2050 should ocean temperatures increase by the 1.5oc projected by climate scientists*2. This degradation and possible disappearance would have serious economic ramifications, in additional to the obvious ecological impact*2.

Around 2 million people visit the reef every year, generating more than $2 billion in direct tourism revenue in the area*3. If the reef was to disappear this would therefore leave a gaping great whole in the national economy.

*1 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

*2 Worldwide Fund for Nature

*3 Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation

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