UNESCO omits Great Barrier Reef from List of World Heritage in Danger

Jul 7, 2017 17:13 IST

The World Heritage Committee, during its annual meeting in Poland, in July 2017 decided not to include the Great Barrier Reef in the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The Committee voted to endorse the Australian Government’s Reef 2050 Plan, which includes several measures designed to protect and manage the ecosystem.

In a draft document later adopted without debate, the World Heritage Committee noted with "serious concern" coral bleaching along the Great Barrier Reef, and asked for an overall report on the state of conservation by December 2019.

UNESCO omits Great Barrier Reef from List of World Heritage in Danger

What this means?

Though, the World Heritage Committee decided that the Great Barrier Reef should not be listed as World Heritage in Danger, it does not mean that the Reef is out of danger.

The Reef has been on the warning list for nearly three years. However, it is not entirely evident why UNESCO decided not to list the Reef as in danger at the 2017 meeting, given the many ongoing threats to its health.

However, the Committee has strongly made it clear they remain concerned about the future of the Great Barrier Reef – one of the Earth’s great natural wonders.

Great Barrier Reef: Still in deep trouble

Unprecedented coral bleaching in consecutive years has damaged two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The reef suffered its most severe bleaching in recorded history, due to warming sea temperatures during March 2016 and April 2016.

The underwater surveys and aerial studies revealed that a 700-kilometre stretch of reefs in the less-accessible north lost two-thirds of shallow-water corals in the past eight to nine months. Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef.

There is a minimal damage in the central and southern regions, including major tourist areas around Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands, of the reef.

Bleaching of the 2300-kilometre long reef was one of the foremost reasons of the damage. Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, which in turn drain them of their colour. The coral uses the organic products of photosynthesis to help it grow. Therefore, algae are vital for them. The loss of algae makes the host vulnerable to disease, which will eventually make them die.

However, coral can recover if the water temperature drops and the algae are able to recolonise them.

About Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system.

It is composed of over 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands.

The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

The reef is so vast that it can be seen from outer space.

It is also the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms.

This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps.

In 1981, it was selected as a World Heritage Site.

A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use.

A study published in October 2012 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that the reef has lost more than half its coral cover since 1985.

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