The Great Barrier Reef is a living coral landscape stretching more than 1700 miles along Australia’s eastern shore. It is home to 5,000 types of mollusks, 1,800 species of fish, 125 kinds of sharks, and innumerable miniature marine organisms. And a wealth of coral species – more than 350 different types including branching staghorn and elk corals, fronds of waving soft corals, hard nubby domes and pancake-flat plates – all made out of calcium, seawater and sunlight.
Credit for all photos lies with the incomparably talented David Doubilet/National Geographic. More of Doubilet’s photos of the Great Barrier Reef can be found here.
A Fragile Empire
This empire of carbonate rock was built over millions of years by coral polyps, each smaller than a grain of rice. These colonial organisms, which are closely related to sea anemones and jellyfish, live symbioticly or in partnership, with photosynthesis algae called zooxanthellae. (Not sure how to pronounce that? The x sounds like a z and it rhymes with “no more jelly” ). The algae harvest solar energy and feed it to the corals, who in turn build living temples to the sun.
Charlie Veron, coral expert and a longtime chief scientist for the Australian Institute of Marine Science worries about the future of corals in a rapidly warming ocean. When temperatures rise to high, coral expel their zooxanthelle symbionts, a phenomenon known as bleaching because the absence of the algae causes them to appear white. Without their partners, the coral polyps will die. “Reefs for me are places for solitude and thought,” says Veron, seen admiring stony corals in the slideshow above. “But I know there is fragility in their existence. I fear what lies ahead.”
The reef is also threatened by ocean acidification, which lower ocean pH and makes it harder for polyps to build the reef material itself. The massive runoff of toxins and sediment that followed the Australian floods last year is expected to affect the reef for years to come.
Not Without a Fight
But the Aussies aren’t going to let the reef die without a fight. In 2004, strategic sections of the reef amounting to one third of its total area were set aside in marine parks were fishing is banned. The biological recovery has been faster and more dramatic than expected. If diversity is strength, then this empire has a lot more fight left in it.
For more about the great Barrier Reef, as well as wonderful articles on Yosemite’s superclimbers, saving the world’s forests, and how the people of Bangladesh deal with rising seas, check out the May issue of National Geographic, on newstands April 26.
Everything Except the Writing: Round of Words Week Three Check-in
I missed both of last week’s check-ins due to travel and the Passover holiday. But the goals are going well – everything except the writing, that is.
- Writing: I started a new piece that I’m really excited about. I just have a bit over one page so far but the world-building is going well. The writing – not so much. I thought a 3000 word a week goal would work but I find that i do need a daily goal. For the next week and a half I’m going to try one hour a day focused on writing. No word count, just a chunk of time. I’ll let you know how that works.
- Blogging: I missed Sunday’s check-in and Wednesday’s post came out on Thursday (a bit of a challenge when it’s usually called “Wonderful Waterful Wednesday,”) but the overall blogging endeavor is gong well. I’ve decided to revamp the blog – focus and all – so expect a whole lotta changes in the near future.
- Learning: I did a lot of reading on the plane to and from California including whole chapters of the Artist’s Way and the How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writer course material. For my artist’s date I spent an hour and a half working on a hand-sewing project I thought up ages ago: a yoga bag made from an old skirt. Since I’ve never actually sewn anything, it’s a challenge but also a lot of fun. One thing I’ve noticed about these dates – I have a really hard time dedicating a full 2 hours. Will have to think about why and work on it.
There is it. To meet all the other ROW80 participants and where they’re at, check ‘em out here.
Marine Mammals Poster Giveaway
This month’s giveaway is an out-of-print NOAA poster of Marine Mammals of the Western Hemisphere. Every comment left in the month of May equals one entry. Every link or reference to this blog on your site equals two entries. The drawing will be held on the 1st of May, so start your entries now!
Danielle Meitiv is a writer, science geek, gardener, and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.