Coral Bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef

Coral Bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef

Some weeks ago, I went up diving by “Lizard Island”, a fellow diver told me back on the boat. One year ago, I was on a one-week diving trip with my brother and father at the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. He told us how colourless the reef was up further North, how bad it smelled at the surface due to all the dead corals and animals. He said it was because the water was too warm. On the next dive, I tried to see if any of what he had told us could be observed at the reef we were exploring, which was next to the city Cairns. Lucky for us, this area was still a colourful paradise of wonders, a completely different world. However, some spots I believed to be somewhat pale compared to others consisting of same coral. These also lacked fish and other animals. As it turns out, more than 90% of the Great Barrier Reef had already been touched by the phenomenon known as coral bleaching. 

Corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae, a relationship in which one side gives important nutrients or other services to the other side and vice versa. When water temperatures are too high, e.g. now, do to climate change, algae produce toxic compounds which are not accepted by the coral. Thus, the coral ‘spits’ out the algae and cannot get the nutrients it needs to thrive on. Now I also understood why other animals too had died. It was because many animals rely on these corals for shelter and feeding. To look at it from an even wider perspective, humans need this ecosystem as well and this ecosystem has impacts on other marine systems. A chain of catastrophes.  I hoped that all the outcry about this problem would mobilise people to take action, on public level as well as on a legislative one so people in the future can still experience the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. But a couple of weeks ago I heard the news that it might be too late now to stop this at all…  

Axel Pfleger

Axel Pfleger is a 21-year-old Science Communication student at the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. His international background starts at his birth place in Mexico City as a half Mexican, half German child, and continues in living in various parts of the world, such as the USA. Axel has now been living in Germany for eleven years but continues to travel whenever the chance arises. He has produced multiple films, of which one is an adventure documentary that has aired on regional TV. Furthermore, Axel has provided his skills cinematography and narration for other productions. 

A voice from the Triangulation through Science Communication project.