The Great Barrier Reef is not only the world’s largest coral reef system but also a home to many other unique species, many of which are listed as endangered (such as sea turtles). The reef is habitat to a more than 1,500 species of fish and has Unesco World Heritage status.
Four hundred coral species inhabit the reef as well as five hundred species of marine algae.
The reef belongs to the areas with the richest biodiversity in our planet but this biodiversity could be soon put under great jeopardy, not just because of increasing climate change impact but mostly because of increase in Australian coal industry and related ship traffic.
Many environmentalists fear that rapid industrial expansion in Australia and increased coal mining will have a direct negative impact on health of the Great Barrier Reef and could even cause more damage than the climate change.
The main problem with Great Barrier Reef is its location as it lies off the coast of the state of Queensland, which is the largest producer of coal in the country. The state also recently announced plan to build the world's biggest coal port near the town of Bowen.
A UN team has already arrived in Australia to investigate a possible damage to the Great Barrier Reef from coal industry. Environmentalists hope that government will halt all new developments until a state and federal review of the health of the reef is carried out.
It's true that Australian government has imposed strict legislation to ensure water quality and protect marine life during industrial development but this doesn't mean that Australian sensitive environment is safe because powerful coal mining industry will certainly try to come out victorious from this situation.
It's yet another environment vs. industry battle in the making. This time hopefully environment will prevail.