Great Barrier Reef Threats – A WWF View The World Wildlife Fund – WWF sees climate change as one of the greatest threats to the Great Barrier Reef due to the adverse impact of coral bleaching and raised acidity of seawater that it causes. WWF is concentrating efforts on: 1. Informing governments of the importance of addressing climate change and 2. Reducing pollution run-off from agriculture Climate change Climate change is seen as the biggest threat to the reef’s future. In the Outlook Report for the Great Barrier Reef in 2009 The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority stated: “the threats of increasing sea temperature, ocean acidification and rising sea level are assessed as very high risk to the ecosystem. Their impact will be compounded by each other and by other existing regional and local threats.” Coral bleaching Coral bleaching events in 1998 and 2002 had a significant impact on the Great Barrier Reef. Bleaching was acknowledged to have been more severe in 2002. Aerial surveys taken at that time showed that almost 60% of reefs experienced bleaching of some degree. Pollution Pollution from catchment run-off in the forms of sediment, nutrient and pesticide is also making a significant detrimental contribution to the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. Sediment volume flowing into the marine park has quadrupled over the past 160 years. The expansion of grazing and cropping activities in the catchment has been the primary cause for the loss of native vegetation and wetlands and subsequent increase in chemical run-off into reef waters. A corresponding increase in nutrient loads encourages algal blooms, which, in turn, provide food for larvae of the devastating crown-of-thorns starfish. Additionally, approximately 30% of the reef is now exposed to pollution from pesticides. Overfishing The Great Barrier Reef ecosystem is subject to high levels of pressure from commercial and to a lesser extent recreational fishing. Commercial fishing practices, such as trawling for prawns, are permitted in over one-third of the marine park. The resultant untargeted fish capture (bycatch), and damage to the seafloor and its resident plants and animals places great pressure on a delicate ecosystem.
Industrialisation The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from the most widespread, rapid and damaging set of industrial developments in Queenslandâ€™s history aimed at expanding current or creating new coal export port facilities. The Queensland Government is fast-tracking dredging and dumping of millions of tonnes of seabed and rock, and encouraging increased shipping through the narrow straits between reefs. Pressure has been brought to bear on The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to approve construction of the worldâ€™s biggest coal port at Abbot Point, 50 km from the Whitsunday Islands.