As far as natural heritage sites are concerned, there are few as well-known as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The reef itself spans a massive 1400 miles off the coast of Queensland, Australia and it is an enormous spot and draw for tourism. The tourism is so huge in the area that it can produce roughly 3 billion dollars a year from visitors. So maintaining the reefs sustainability is a massive concern for the country for a variety of reasons but there is growing strife associated with the site’s sustainability. A multitude of threats have arisen that significantly threaten the sites ability to survive. Some of the major threats come from the massive tourism and human interaction with the reef itself, climate change is also play a very negative role in the sustainability of the reef. Overfishing and increase shipping is also now becoming an extreme issues for the region because of its effect on biodiversity and pollution.
The first issue comes from the enormous amount of tourism to the area, like with any natural site the tourism can have very damaging effects if it isn’t handled properly. The issue with having such a large amount of tourism is that is greatly increases the rate at which the reef is getting polluted. With hundreds of thousands of people visiting the site every year it is no surprise that there is a growing amount of pollution in the reef that greatly hurts the ecosystem and can destroy the coral. Another major effect the visitors have on the reef comes from touching the coral. Now many people know that coral is alive and you are not supposed to touch it at all but there are always people who don’t follow those rules and the oils on humans is all that is needed to kill the coral which takes extremely long to grow. Even if it is just a small percentage of visitors that touch any coral, with the amount of people that go a year it amounts to a very significant of ruined coral.
Another pressing concern for sustainable reefs is the current climate change that is having a negative impact on reefs like the Great Barrier. Climate change is a problem mostly because it causes an issue known as ‘coral bleaching’. Coral bleaching in simplest terms is a phenomenon caused by climate change that kills of important protozoa that are crucial to the survival and development to the reefs. The reason that climate change brings this about is because it raises the acidity of the waters to levels that are not suited for the organisms that have not yet adapted to the change. There have been two very massive occurrences of coral bleaching thus far and it is proving to be an extremely significant issue in the discussion of the reef’s sustainability.
The next two major threats to the site’s sustainability come from fishing and shipping which carry a handful of threats for the reef. Both of them increase the rate of pollution in the area simply because of trash getting thrown in the water or fuel admissions in the water. However, with increase shipping through the area the chances of a major oil spill it’s immensely increased. An oil spill can destroy any marine ecosystem almost overnight and is a huge concern in the management of the reef. Now one of the main reasons people visit the Great Barrier Reef is to see the massive biodiversity of the site but the enormous amount of fishing that occurs in the area is heavily damaging the natural ecosystem and cutting into the ecosystem’s natural order and food chain. So the increase of shipping and fishing in the region carries very significant threats to the sustainability of the site because it threatens the biodiversity itself.