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20 Human Impacts on the Great Barrier Reef

by Fitriani

Here are the 20 Human Impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is considered as a World Heritage Area located at the coast of Queensland. An important natural ecosystem, it is constantly threatened by human actions or conditions that are speed up by human activities. Below are the most common harm to the reef by humans.

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1.Coastal Development

With the ever increasing number of human population, the search for a place to live is unavoidable. Although many people usually gravitate towards cities, it is reported that around 2.5 billion people live at a distance of 100 km away from the coastal areas.

That’s around 40% of the population in the world. Due to the need of more land for the people or community, reclamation of areas from the sea happens. The shallow reefs are usually preferable so airports or urban buildings can be built. (Also read: Movement of Ocean Water)

However, this greatly disturbs the Great Barrier Reef well being as it means that a part of their habitat is taken away. Other than that, the building process of these human commodities may harm the animals and plants of the Great Barrier Reef. Furthermore, there is also the long term effect from human activities who live there. (Read: Causes of Coral Reef Destruction)

2. Nutrient Enrichment from Agricultural Run-off

Agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides can cause great damage to the Great Barrier Reef. The chance is high when a farming land is located close to the coast. The harmful chemicals may contaminate nearby rivers which in turn flow out into the ocean. There are many reasons why too much nutrients can negatively impact the Great Barrier Reef.

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The nutrients can cause water to be murky thus reducing their clarity. It also means that less sunlight can pass through. The level of oxygen in water may also decrease due to many nutrients. Algal blooms that are harmful may threatened the Great Barrier Reef. Moreover, the nutrients may cause the degradation of kelp and seagrass beds which are very much needed in the ecosystem.

3. Destructive Fishing Methods

There are a number of ways to fish in the ocean. Some are safe while some are considered to be harmful. The destructive fishing methods such as trawling, by catch and the use of explosives can damage the marine species of the Great Barrier Reef as well as jeopardizing their ecosystem.

Trawling is the use of huge nets that can reach the sea bed. It is a very harmful way of fishing as it can drag along the sea bed and destroy the habitat in the Great Barrier Reef. Other than that, if done continuously then some species can go extinct. (Read more: Plants in the Pacific Ocean)

Another destructive fishing method is by catch because it may cause a significant amount of a species population. The usage of explosives is dangerous too because the explosives kill both the target fish as well as the surrounding animals and plants within the area of the Great Barrier Reef.

4. Littering and Rubbish

The litters and rubbish that humans leave behind absolutely contribute to the declining health of the Great Barrier Reef. This form of waste may come from the coasts and the beach but it can also come from the river waste that flow from far away regions. The most common litter and rubbish are cigarette buts, plastic bags, plastic bottles and batteries.

These items have the potential to ruin the ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef in numerous ways. Cigarette buts take a long time to decompose, approximately 75 years. Therefore, it keeps piling up or get eaten by the animals of the Great Barrier Reef. (Read more: Destruction of Coral Reefs)

Plastic bags can ruin habitats and many fish can get trapped in them which cause death. The same also applies to plastic bottles. As for batteries, they need 200 years to decompose. What makes them dangerous to the Great Barrier Reef is the toxic chemicals that leak, killing animals and harm corals.(Also read: Types of Kelp)

5. Over-fishing

We already discussed how destructive fishing methods can be and how they ruin the coral ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef. However, over-fishing is a problem too. People may fish for consumption or aquarium reasons but once they go overboard, then it becomes a threat.

Overfishing means that fish are taken at a high numbers, more than what the fish can produce. Therefore, the sustainability is disturbed. The population of certain numbers of fish decline and could go to extinction. The whole coral ecosystem becomes unbalanced because there are missing species from the food web. Moreover the fish who are naturally predators may cause destruction to the corals because their food are taken away.

Read more: Ways to Prevent Overfishing

6. Tourism

Coastal regions especially the Great Barrier Reef attract tourists from all over the world. This is great news because it means more job opportunities for people. It is also a good source of income as well. The downside is that not all the tourists may be well informed or educated on the subject of natural environment. Tourists who are unaware on the whole coral ecosystem may litter and throw rubbish without thinking twice on the impacts that they have to the creatures in the Great Barrier Reef.

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Reckless swimming, diving and snorkeling may also cause damages to corals. Giving guidance, education and information to tourists may prevent them from unwanted action but there is a possibility that they may not be effective because some tourists may be stubborn.

7. Non-native Species Brought by Humans

Non-native species in this case means that they do not occur naturally in the Great Barrier Reef. These species are usually brought in by humans through ships. (Also read: Types of Ocean Rays)

It may sound like a good idea to add more species into the ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef. But it’s not. These non-native species have a high potential of damaging the reef. They bring in disease and viruses that kill of many plants and animals in the reef. One concern is the non-native creatures that are actually predators. These predators may hunt after the native species of the Great Barrier Reef. Overall, non-native species have a high chance of destroying the coral ecosystem.

8. Continuously Cutting Mangroves

The increasing need for land also means the destruction of the mangroves. They are cut so there are more open land available to use. However, cutting mangroves greatly harm the Great Barrier Reef. The animals of the coral reefs need mangroves to survive. More specifically, they need mangrove leaves.(Read: Threats to Marine Habitats)

The leaves usually fall into the water and the coral animals feed on them. Other than that, the mangroves provide feeding ground rich in nutrients that are good for the health of the fish. Lastly, they also provide protection to the shoreline. They reduce the damage caused by cyclones and storms that can hurt the creatures of the Great Barrier Reef.

9. Chemical Spills from Boats

Boats travel along the Great Barrier Reef from time to time. They can be safe but accidents can happen. Chemical spills from boats, such as oil, can reduce the water quality of the Great Barrier Reef. No matter how small or big the spill is, it will still negatively impact the reef.

10. Anchor Damage

Ships that need to make a stop along the shoreline will need to drop their anchors. These anchors may accidentally hit the corals and cause serious damage. Continuous damage may cause permanent harm to the Great Barrier Reef.

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11. Paints from Ships

For the bottom part of ships, people use anti-fouling paint or coating. This is to prevent organisms to get attached to it. However, they reduce the quality of the surrounding water and affect the creatures of the Great Barrier Reef. Water quality is an important aspect to reef in order for the creatures to thrive.

12. Sunscreen

People wear sunscreen since they protect the skin from harmful rays of the sun. This is good for us but not so good for the Great Barrier Reef. There are chemicals in sunscreen and once they come in contact with water, the chemicals affect the water as well as the creatures nearby. There have been rules taking place where sunscreen are not allowed to be worn if people want to swim in the water. (Read more: Endangered Dolphin Species)

13. Fossil Fuel Emission

The emission from the use of fossil fuel has caused a significant rise in temperature. Since 1998, it has been reported that there have been three serious coral bleaching events. A rise in temperature cause the ocean water to be acidic. Thus corals find it hard to grow and some experience bleaching.

14. Nuclear Waste

Nuclear waste are fatal to the reef. They either come from other parts of the seas, rivers or accidental occurrence. They can affect the animals and plants within the lagoon of the reef for years to come.(Read: Types of Abalone)

15. Farm Animals Waste

Poorly managed animal waste can contaminate rivers, which then causes the sea water to be polluted. It highly interferes the condition needed for the reef to flourish.

16. Mining Pollution

Pollution from mining contains toxic, metallic materials. They are a hazard to the sea water and could ruin the animals and plants in the Great Barrier Reef.(Read: Largest Clams in the World)

17. Sugar Cane Farming

The byproducts from sugar cane have the potential to run into the area of the Great Barrier Reef which affect the water quality. Other than that, toxic fertilizers can also cause harm to the whole habitat.

18. Industrial Dumping

Industrial dumping or waste can cause a poor quality of water. One of the common waste from industries is copper. It has been reported that copper dumping has stunt the growth of corals in the Great Barrier Reef.

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19. Ships Routes

It has been reported that some routes of ships passing by, damage the corals nearby. They use some areas of the Great Barrier Reef for grounding.

20. Human Activities Speed Up Climate Change

A lot of human activities speed up climate change that will eventually kill off everything in the Great Barrier Reef. Climate change cause bleaching to corals and it may take decades for them to recover, if possible at all.(Read: Ways to Protect the Marine Life)

Finally, those are complete information about how many impact which human did for the great barrier reef’s existence. Therefore, for now on, after knowing this useful information, we could reduce the negative impact to the great barrier reef so they can live well along with us and also nature.

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