The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority issued a report on Friday that reduced the outlook for the world’s largest coral reef system from “poor” to “very poor,” citing climate change as the greatest threat.
The report is the group’s third comprehensive report assessing the condition of the Great Barrier Reef.
It said, “The significant and large-scale impacts from record-breaking sea surface temperatures have resulted in coral reef habitat transitioning from poor to very poor condition.”
The group also pointed to other major threats connected to the deterioration of the reef, including those associated with “coastal development, land-based run-off, and direct human use (such as illegal fishing).”
“Not all habitats have been equally affected and their condition varies across the Region. For instance, coral reefs that have escaped impacts of bleaching, cyclones and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks remain in good condition,” the report continued.
The report also noted that a number of species in the reef are also being assessed as being in poor to very poor condition.
“Species assessments reflect both ongoing effects of past significant population declines (for example, from historical commercial harvesting of dugongs and turtles) and current impacts that add further pressure,” it states.
If the reef is going to survive, the report said it depends on a “healthy functioning of a range of physical, chemical and ecological processes, and connection to functioning coastal ecosystems.”
“Of the 31 ecosystem health components assessed, about 60 percent remain in good to very good condition, but the remainder are in poor to very poor condition,” it continued. “Some critical ecosystem functions have deteriorated since 2014, mainly due to declines in ecological processes, such as symbiosis and recruitment, and deterioration of some physical processes, such as sea temperature and light.”
The group noted that significant action on climate change is needed on a global scale to counter the deterioration of the region’s ecosystem.