World’s Largest Coral Reef Has Decreased by Half

November 15, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. marine (adj.) 
[muh-reen– referring or relating to the sea or organisms that inhabits the sea
Example: The scientists have discovered new marine species.

2. ecologist (n.) [ih-kol-uh-jist– one who studies ecology, or the relationship of organisms and their environment
Example: The ecologists went to the forest to study the insects living there.

3. bleaching (n.) [bleech– the act of whitening or removing the color of something, using chemicals, heat, or sunlight
Example: Some people, specifically women, undergo body bleaching to make their skin whiter.

4. runoff (n.) [ruhn-awf, -of] – waste water or excess water from land that flows into the ocean or river
Example: The runoff from the farms flows into the river.

5. elevated (adj.) [el-uh-vey-tid– increased in amount or degree
Example: Fever is characterized by elevated body temperature.

Read the text below.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the world, has decreased by 50% from 1985 to 2012, according to a research by ecologists.

The researchers studied 214 different reefs around the Great Barrier Reef, and they estimated a 3.4% loss every year since 1985.

Katharina Fabricius, an ecologist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, has observed the decline for two decades. She says that the reef today has fewer marine species than in the past.

The major causes of the decline are environmental factors. The Earth’s elevated temperatures have changed weather patterns and have increased the number of tropical cyclones that break up reefs. Hotter ocean temperatures also cause coral bleaching, which shortens the coral’s life.

Additionally, one type of starfish that feed on corals is growing in population because of nutrient-rich runoff from farms.

While people cannot quickly change the Earth’s elevated temperatures or stop tropical cyclones from happening, more reef loss can still be prevented.

Les Kaufman, a biologist at Boston University, says every country must work on reducing the release of harmful carbon dioxide gas to prevent world temperatures from rising.

Fabricius says reducing the starfish numbers can help the reef heal itself within 20 to 30 years. Normally, starfish are few because they easily get diseases. To keep the number of starfish low, scientists can try introducing natural diseases to the starfish. Fabricius says farmers must also reduce the amount of runoff that goes into the reefs. Removing the starfish by hand can also be a temporary solution.  

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         In your opinion, why is protecting the world’s coral reefs important?
·         Do you think countries can really work together to save the environment or to reduce pollution? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         Are there any natural resources (animals, forests, rivers, etc.) in your country that are in danger or are decreasing? What are people doing to save them?
·         In your own simple way, how can you help solve common environmental problems in your country?


November 15, 2012