It is really a collection of many coral reefs almost joined together and extending from north to south in a thin strip off the east coast of Australia. It is lovely to look at, if you scuba dive, snorkel or take a boat, contains many interesting animals and is a good tourist puller. But do we really need it.
It seems that we need some things more than we need the Great Barrier Reef, things like sugar, which people grow onAustralia’s eastern seaboard. They grow sugar because they need to make money and growing sugar (or rather the industrial scale growth of sugar, in order to make industrial scale money, is rather important, and more important than theGreat Barrier Reef. Around 80% of the land inAustraliaadjacent to the sea that holds the Great Barrier Reef is used for farming, mostly the growing of sugar cane, with some cattle faming.
When people grow sugar, and many other commodities on an industrial scale, they wish to ensure that the land yields the largest crop possible and does so year after year. This means that the land has to be dressed with copious quantities of nutrients and fertilisers. What nourishes crops as a fertiliser is often a poison to ecosystems like theGreat Barrier Reef. Sediments and nutrients from farming run off the land into the river systems and add nitrogen and phosphorus to the sea water. These ingredients are great for the growth of algae, who respond to a good dose of nitrogen and phosphorous by vigorously multiplying. In doing so the algae deplete oxygen in the sea. They also can “bloom” blocking sunlight which means that corals cannot grow so well, with less oxygen and less sunlight, and so the corals fade and die.
Scientists believe there to be a causal link between farming at coral reef health. Studies showed that coral reefs located closer to farms fare worse than corals located far from farming. The studies are not undeniable proof, but they are very persuasive.
The recent East Coast floods inAustraliawould have exacerbated the run off of pesticides and nutrients. The sugar cane farmers day that they have no alternative but to use nutrients, pesticides and fertilisers, notwithstanding that some pesticides were found in large volumes forty miles off shore.
I daresay that growing a little less sugar will not harm the world; any more than eating a little less sugar will harm most people. Profit must when the devil drives but what profit a man if he eats a lot of sugar but loses the Great Barrier Reef?
Filed under: Flooding, global warming Tagged: | algae bloom, farming close to the great barrier reef, loss of coral, Profit must when the devil drives, run off of nutrients from farming, sugar cane farming damaging the environment, the great barrier reef