World’s Largest Structure Composed of Living Entities Continues to Die

Rebecca Pujo, Editor-in-Chief

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, is currently dying due to increasing global temperatures and bleaching. As of October, about 93 percent of the reef has been affected by bleaching, according to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
Following an underwater heat wave in 2015-16, what proved to be the worst coral bleaching event to ever affect the Great Barrier Reef, the northern portion of the reef has been greatly affected and a large amount of corals in the north have died due to bleaching.
“While analysis shows the Great Barrier Reef has typically been robust in response to disturbances and is likely to fare better than most reef regions,” Kelli Davis, Information Officer of the Communications and Parliamentary department of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, said” The severe bleaching event of 2016 will have lasting impacts on the health and resilience of affected reefs.”
Bleaching, which happens when water temperatures get too warm, is when corals expel the zooxanthellae, algae that helps keep coral alive, from their tissues, which turns the coral completely white and greatly increases their mortality and vulnerability.
“If everything is connected to global warming and temperature, there [are] many concerns that are not just associated with the Great Barrier Reef,” IB environmental systems and societies teacher Jeff Grandin said.
According to, the Earth’s temperature has increased by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, much of which is absorbed by the ocean, especially the top 700 meters, which have increased in temperature by 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit 1969-2015.
As global temperatures continue to rise, the effects on ecosystems are evident not only in the Great Barrier Reef, but in other, more local areas as well. According to Grandin, increasing temperatures can impact other types of ecosystems by affecting the species and food webs, as temperature can potentially increase to beyond certain species’ zones of tolerance.
For instance, this can be observed in the rising sea levels of the Chesapeake Bay. According to the National Wildlife Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay is one of the regions in the nation most vulnerable to global warming, due to its large coastline and low typography. As sea levels have risen almost a foot in many areas around the bay, at least 13 islands have already disappeared, and many more are at risk.
“It’s important that we recognize what we’re doing to the planet, and try to find better ways to do what we need to do without harming our earth,” junior Carrie Anderson said.