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March 17th 2017 Science and Technology Current Affairs

Great Barrier Reef May Not Become Pristine as it Once Was

Scientists said that many parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef would never recover from the impact of global warming, i.e., due to warm waters. The Great Barrier Reef near the Australian continent is the world’s largest coral reef system. It is composed of more than 2,900 individual reefs and nearly 900 islands stretching over 2,300 kilometers. This coral reef is mainly located in the Coral Sea of Queensland, Australia.

  • This reef can be seen from the outer space and is considered as the world’s biggest single structure made by the living organisms.
  • In 1981, it was selected as a World Heritage Site.
  • The coral reefs support a wide diversity of life and will be rich in biodiversity andare considered as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
  • However, these reefs are sensitive to climate changes as the coral reefs are composed of billions of tiny organisms, commonly known ascoral polyps.
  • They accommodate avariety of algae give them brilliant colours. Hence, when thewater warms the algae gets released from the coral and turn into awhite colour which is called as bleaching, and subsequently, the reef gets killed.
  • Due to warming sea water, almost coral reefs spanning 500 km died last year.
  • Scientists told that survived reefs also would not recover to full health, due to repeated events of the sea water warming, the coral reefs will not get time to recover its full health.
  • This conclusion by the scientists is a big blow to the Australia’s tourism industry, as the reef itself attracting $3.9 billion in spending each year, a 2013 Deloitte Access Economics report estimated.

The Menace of Oil Spils

An oil spill is nothing but the release of a liquid petroleum into the surrounding environment. The oil spills are anthropogenic and mostly occurs in the areas, and the oil spill is considered as a form of pollution. The term is generally applied to oil spills on marine waters, where oil is released into the coastal or ocean waters. However, the oil spills can also occur on land. Oil spills mostly happen due to release of crude oil from offshore platforms, tankers, drilling rigs and wells, during spillage of refined petroleum products, or the spill of any waste oil. Oil spills can bring serious repercussions for the society; environmentally, economically, and socially. Oil spills may take or even years to get cleaned up from the environment.

How it affects the environment?

  • Most of the oil spilt will get evaporated in few days but that the toxic compounds present in the spill will kill animals in the area.
  • This will lead to mass deaths of fish turtles and birds that dwell in the waters.
  • Most of the marine life gets suffocated as the oil forms a light film on the water and severely impacts the food chain disturbing the food web of themarine
  • Toxic compounds present in the oil settles at the bottom disturbing the coral reefs and flora and fauna associated with it.
  • Often the spilt oil washes to the shore and disturbs the coastal ecosystem.
  • Tourism industry gets disturbed, and the population near the coastal areas will face many problems economically and health wise.
  • Oil spill on land is also dangerous as the spilt oil takes years to get degraded.

How to reduce its effect?

  • Bioremediation help to reduce the effect and clear the spill in an eco-friendly way.
  • Many strains of bacteria and cyanobacteria are now widely used for the bioremediation of oil spills.
  • Enzymes obtained from plants are also used to treat the polluted water.
  • Manually skimmers can be used to absorb the spilt oil
  • Chemicals that can adsorb or break the oil hydrocarbons also can be used.
  • Dispersant chemicals are also available to clear the oil spills.
  • For clearing oils spill in coastal areas,generallyvacuum trucks, common construction tools are used.

Recently oil spill has occurred near Chennai has created panic. Already our government set up a National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan in 1996. This aims to develop efficient systems for the detection of oil spills and methods to clear them. It is also intended to develop techniques to dispose of recovered oil spill materials in an eco-friendly manner.

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