Scientists Announce That The Great Barrier Reef is Officially “Terminal”

The Great Barrier Reef

Why care about reefs? In a word—biodiversity. The reef is home to 3,000 varieties of mollusks, over a hundred types of jellyfish, 1,625 species of fish, hundreds of shark and ray species, and over 30 kinds of whales and dolphins. These sea creatures call the soft and hard corals that make up the reef “home.” And without it, many of them will die.

If that’s not enough, it has the distinction of being the largest living structure on the planet.

The Great Barrier Reef is home to 3,000 individual coral reefs stretching across a staggering 2,575 kilometers (1,600 miles), covering an area of about 344,400 square kilometers (133,000 square miles.)

Unfortunately, because of back to back mass bleaching events, scientists are telling us that the massive, impressive Australian Great Barrier Reef is now at a ‘terminal stage’—with large portions having no hope of recovery.

Our Warming World: The Future of Climate Change [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Mass bleaching, a phenomenon caused by global warming, is prompted when the water warms to a point that corals begin ejecting the symbiotic algae in their tissue, essential for their survival. Throughout history, there have only been four instances of this occurrence, and after such an event, it will take decades to recover.

“This is the fourth time the Great Barrier Reef has bleached severely – in 1998, 2002, 2016, and now in 2017. Bleached corals are not necessarily dead corals, but in the severe central region we anticipate high levels of coral loss,” said researcher James Kerry from James Cook University’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. He clarifies why the 2017 bleaching is significant: “It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016.”

Death Toll

The newest aerial surveys covered over 8,000 kilometers (5,000) miles, which includes 800 individual coral reefs.

According to the surveys, 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) of the Great Barrier Reef is now bleached. These new statistics come less than a year after 93 percent of the reef suffered severe damage, with reports adding that the effects have also spread further south.

Combined with the mass bleaching event, the arrival of Tropical Cyclone Debbie added to the devastation, as it struck a section of the reef that managed to escape the worst of the bleaching.

“We’ve given up,” said Jon Brodie, a James Cook University water quality expert, who was referring to inaction on the part of the Australian government. “It’s been my life managing water quality, we’ve failed.”

Unfortunately, in this age of global warming, temperatures are expected to continue rising, which means more of these bleaching events will happen, and they will cause even more damage. And the reality is, this could be the last generation who will get to see the grand beauty of this reef.

Fortunately, it’s not too late for us to save the rest of the planet from the worst effects of climate change. But we must act now.

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Scientists Want to Search for Life Deep Below the Earth’s Surface

Digging Deep

There’s still much to be discovered about the Earth, from the deep seas — which has been likened to our very own deep space — to the planet’s rocky layers. A team of scientists from Japan’s Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) wants to explore the Earth’s mantle by drilling into it for the first time, using its largest drilling ship called “Chikyu.”

[saved for tomorrow due to graphic] Drilling to the Center of the Earth

The JAMSTEC team wants to start drilling by the 2020s. To do this, they need to explore potential underwater drill sites. This September, a two-week preliminary study to find such a site will be done by JAMSTEC deep-sea research vessel Kairei in the waters northeast of Hawaii, according to The Yomiuri Shimbun. Other candidate drill sites have been identified in Mexico and Costa Rica, in case the one in Hawaii won’t work.

“There are still issues to be resolved, particularly the cost,” said petrology professor Susumu Umino from the Kanazawa University. The research team estimates that around ¥60 billion (roughly $542 million) would be needed for the project. “However, the preliminary study will be a big step forward for this project to enter a new stage,” Umino added.

Into the Unknown

The decision to drill through the oceanic crust is a practical one, as it’s thinner (around 6 kilometers [4 miles] thick) than the continental crust. To reach the mantle, the Chikyu’s drill must pass through 4 km (2.5 miles) of water and 6 km (3.7 miles) of crust.

Deep Ocean Dwellers [INFOGRAPHIC]
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The Earth’s mantle is located beneath the crust, and comprises about 80 percent of the planet’s total volume. It’s a flowing silicate rocky shell that is known to affect volcanic activity. As such, one practical consequence of exploring the mantle is to be able to understand such surface phenomena. The researchers also want to understand how the crust was formed by investigating the boundary between oceanic crust and the Earth’s mantle.

Apart from this, the scientists also want to find out if microbial life could survive deep inside the planet. Such a discovery could yield information useful in the search for extraterrestrial life, as the conditions inside the Earth’s mantle could simulate those found on other worlds.

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The Sun Is Slowly Expanding. How Can We Stop It From Killing Us All?

The Earth’s future seems to always be at stake, whether it’s climate change, country politics, or even the expansion of our sun. While the other threats seem a bit exaggerated and current, the aging of our sun into a red giant in 7.6 billion years is a legitimate threat the existence of life on Earth — as well as the Earth itself.

While some scientists contend that the expansion of the Sun results in its loss of mass, and thereby the gravitational tug on the Earth should lessen, others disagree with this prediction. In fact, several papers suggest that Sun will expand too far and too quickly for any lessening of the Sun’s gravitational tug on Earth to protect the blue planet.

In fact, as the Sun expands, many scientists extrapolate that, in about a billion years, the oceans will dry up. In the four billion years after that, entire terrains will melt due to the immense heat, with life being a long forgotten artifact on the once fertile planet.

To avoid this, scientists have theorized about taking advantage of Newton’s laws of physics. We could counterbalance an asteroid 100 kilometers (62 miles) wide and 10^19 kilograms (2.2 × 10^19 lbs) in weight around the Earth and Jupiter to slowly edge the Earth out of the Sun’s expansion radius over the next billion years.

Another solution suggested by Stephen Hawking is to leave Earth entirely and colonize other parts of our solar system. Unless we find the cure to aging, most of us won’t be around to try any of these options — let’s hope our descendants don’t mess it up.

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