Scientists: Stop Saying Great Barrier Reef Is Dead

An obituary for the reef published this week may do more harm than good
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2016 2:00 PM CDT
Scientists: Stop Saying Great Barrier Reef Is Dead
Decomposing coral is shown on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in May.   (XL Catlin Global Reef Record via AP)

Reports of the Great Barrier Reef's death are greatly exaggerated—and "wildly irresponsible," according to scientists. The Huffington Post reports Outside Magazine published an "obituary" for the reef on Tuesday, giving 2016 as the year it died. And while the article may have had its heart in the right place, coral scientists worry that it will do more harm than good for the Great Barrier Reef, which is still very much alive and in need of saving. That's especially a concern as the story has gone viral, garnering misleading headlines like "Great Barrier Reef pronounced dead by scientists." “If there’s nothing that can be done, let’s not do anything and move onto other issues,” NOAA's Russell Brainard worries people will think.

And the Great Barrier Reef could very much benefit from people not moving on to other issues. Recent coral bleaching impacted 93% of the reef, killing 20% of it this year, ThinkProgress reports. According to the Telegraph, fewer fish are living in the reef, and climate change continues to be a threat. It may not be dead, but one scientist says the Great Barrier Reef is "on life support." Still, a recent study showed dead portions of reefs can come back if they're protected. Coral scientist Terry Hughes says a better message would be to let people know that it's not too late if we join together to fight for the Great Barrier Reef. As Brainard tells the Huffington Post, "We're very far from an obituary." (More Great Barrier Reef stories.)

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