Great Barrier Reef pronounced dead by scientists
Great Barrier Reef Officially Declared Dead after 25 Million Years
Hoax or Fact:
Certain stories doing rounds online heavily, on social media and also in couple of news outlets, state that the world’s largest living structure Great Barrier Reef is officially Declared Dead by scientists, after surviving for 25 Million Years. No, the claim as such is not a fact; the Great Barrier Reef is not pronounced dead by scientists.
Origin of Claim
On 11 Oct. 2016, food and travel writer Rowan Jacobsen published a tongue-in-cheek article for Outside Magazine website outsideonline.com, with a title 'Obituary: Great Barrier Reef (25 Million BC-2016)'. According to the article, climate changes and ocean acidification over the years have killed off one of the most spectacular features on the planet. It is said that the 25 million years old Great Barrier Reef of Australia, with vast coral ecosystem, passed away in 2016 after a long illness.
Detailing the 'illness', the article mentions that in 1981 water temperatures soared and two-thirds of the coral in the inner portions of the Great Barrier Reef bleached. Climate changes in later years resulted in warming water and mass bleaching became common in winter of 1997–98, more severe one in 2001–02, and another whopper in 2005–06. It is said that the oceans absorbed more carbon from the atmosphere and became more acidic, and that began to dissolve the living reef itself.
Notably, the article mentioned a famous 2009 speech of Charlie Veron to London’s 350-year-old Royal Society, which discussed if the Great Barrier Reef is on Death Row. Charlie Veron, longtime chief scientist for the Australian Institute of Marine Science, predicted in the premier gathering of scientists that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of 450 parts per million (which the world will reach in 2025) would bring about the death of the reef. The article also mentions that as much as 50 percent of the coral in the warmer, northern part of the reef died, and Veron saying whole northern section is trashed.
Going by this report, couple of news outlets and social media users went on to mourn the supposed passing of the Great Barrier Reef, which is how the story has gone viral. However, it is to be noted that the article did not actually say Scientists declared the Great Barrier Reef dead.
Great Barrier Reef Not Dead Yet, Under Severe Stress
Responding to the Obituary and death reports that the Great Barrier Reef ‘passed away in 2016 after a long illness’, scientists said the report is greatly exaggerated despite mass bleaching. Scientists did stress that the Great Barrier Reef, like most coral structures around the world, is under severe stress, but is not dead. They mentioned that almost a quarter of the reef’s coral has died off, and the previously pristine areas of the ecosystem’s north are the worst affected. A coral reef expert at Georgia Tech, Kim Cobb said he is confident that there will be reefs in 2050, including portions of the Great Barrier Reef. Scientists do mention that the long-term warming and acidifying of the oceans pose a grave threat to reefs around the world, and they hope that large parts of the ecosystem will recover.
So the claims that Great Barrier Reef is officially declared dead by scientists are hoaxes. One good point, however the story raised, is the need of saving the Great Barrier Reef, to focus on minimizing climate change and think of measures to protect the reefs.