The Great Barrier Reef, or GBR in Australia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, now has an IUCN status of “critical” because of climate change.
This is the most spectacular and biggest coral reef system globally, which used to have a health status of “significant concern.”
This status is based on the classification system set by the IUCN or the International Union for Conservation of Nature. According to the organization, climate change is the most significant threat to natural UNESCO World Heritage sites.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons )
The Great Barrier Reef or GBR in Australia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, now has an IUCN status of “critical” because of climate change.
A new report
This was revealed in a new report. It stated that a third of the current 252 natural formations considered the climate crisis is threatening world Heritage sites.
The most significant threat was previously considered to be invasive species.
Deleterious effects of climate change
Some of the negative consequences of the climate crisis on ecosystems include coral bleaching, melting glaciers, and progressively more intense wildfires and droughts.
Many of these effects could cause irreparable harm to these natural systems, such as the extinction of species.
The critical status of the GBR
The GBR coral system is severely affected by acidification, extreme weather events such as record-high heatwaves, and ocean warming.
Since the year 1995, it has already lost 50 percent of its corals. The IUCN “critical” status is the worst and most urgent classification set by the organization. The IUCN is an advisory board of UNESCO.
Sites classified as critical need large-scale, urgent, and additional conservation measures due to their severe condition.
Within only the past five years, there have been three events of extensive coral bleaching in the GBR. Its poor health worsened even more, severely affecting marine species populations relying on the reef system for survival.
Next year, the progressively warming waters are poised to cause yet another mass bleaching. Scientists have noted that the interval between these bleaching events is decreasing, and their frequency is increasing.
Some threats, such as habitat destruction and overfishing, although difficult to manage, could be addressed. Climate change, however, is unmanageable at the local GBR site level. Adding to this complication is the slow implementation of protection measures for the reef. All of these fail to reverse or stop its deterioration.
According to David Cazzulino, campaigner for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, the federal government does not perform its responsibility in being a GBR custodian, which is appalling. He says that a national policy for climate change that considers the reef’s future at heart is needed.
This, Cazzulino says, means reducing global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius, achieving net-zero carbon emissions in the soonest possible time, even well before 2050, and using 100 percent renewable energy. He says these are all possible and will make it a better society for everyone, creating clean jobs by the thousands.
Other deteriorating World Heritage sites
An additional four Australian UNESCO World Heritage sites got a downgrade in status by the IUCN. These are the Gondwana rainforests, the Blue Mountains, Shark Bay, and the Ningaloo Coast.
All in all, more sites deteriorated since the year 2017 than improved.
Only 50% of all World Heritage sites enjoy effective to highly effective management and protection. According to IUCN director-general Bruno Oberle, these natural wonders are among our most precious treasures.
We owe future generations the protection of every UNESCO World Heritage site, which the IUCN warns is deteriorating due to climate change, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
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