Great Barrier Reef: UNESCO requests endangered listing

What is the List of World Heritage in Danger?

The World Heritage Committee monitors all sites in the World Heritage Area to ensure that they do not lose their unique and valuable characteristics.

If the Committee decides that a site is threatened, it places it on the List of World Heritage in Danger to alert the international community and encourage corrective action.

The committee is required to develop and adopt a program of corrective measures and ongoing monitoring in consultation with local authorities. It may also choose to provide financial assistance from the World Heritage Fund.

UNESCO says that listing a site is not a sanction, but a way to effectively respond to specific conservation needs.

Why is the Great Barrier Reef threatened?

The reef was designated a natural World Heritage Site in 1981 for its “outstanding universal value”, which included its outstanding natural beauty and rare and endangered species. As the largest living structure on earth, the reef is one of the richest and most complex natural ecosystems in the world.

But climate change, which is causing temperatures to rise on our land and in our oceans, is the biggest threat to the future of the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs around the world.

Marine heatwaves have triggered four mass coral bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef in just six years, reducing shallow-water coral reefs by up to 50 percent.

Coral reefs can recover from bleaching over time, but only if temperatures drop and conditions return to normal.

Poor water quality is also a major threat to the reef, caused largely by dissolved inorganic nitrogen, pesticides, and sediments that run off our land, into our waterways, and into the reef.

Extreme weather events such as cyclones, outbreaks of coral-eating starfish and habitat loss are also significant threats.

Science tells us we have less than 10 years to turn the tide in coral reef decline. To do this, we need urgent action on climate change to drastically reduce global emissions.

This is a huge task, but reducing emissions is no longer enough.

Action against climate change requires a redoubled effort to protect our reefs. As the world works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must also build ecosystem resilience by rapidly developing and scaling up interventions to buy coral reefs time and help them adapt to warmer temperatures already caused by climate change.

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