The health of the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest World Heritage Area, is a key indicator of global climate change. Increases in sea temperature of as little as 1°C may lead to coral bleaching, the eventual death of corals and cause severe damage to dependent ecosystems. In 1998 and 2002 the Great Barrier Reef experienced two mass coral bleaching events and climate change is widely considered to pose the greatest long-term threat to the reef. It is predicted that without substantial reductions (“deep cuts”) in global emissions of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, the corals of the Great Barrier Reef will be decimated and coral cover worldwide will decrease to less than 5 per cent on most reefs by 2050.
There are some concerns that rising temperatures due to global warming are putting the reef at risk, as well as pesticide runoff and coastal development. These factors combine to reduce the biodiversity and threaten marine animals and the reef itself.
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