Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care
Australia’s Great Barrier of Reef traces a graceful 1,250-mile-long (2,000-kilometer-long) arc off the nation’s northeast coast. This largest of all coral habitats covers an area larger than Poland, and is made up of some 2,800 separate reefs.
A voyage to the outer edges of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has brought back pieces of an ancient, fossilized ancestor to the vast, living ecosystem.
This fossilized coral reef was alive about 20,000 years ago, during the height of the last glacial period, a time when Earth was around 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) cooler than it is now, and the city of Chicago was buried beneath an ice sheet almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) thick.
By studying this ancient coral, scientists are hoping to put together the most accurate picture yet of how sea levels have changed over thousands of years, data that can help inform projections of how sea levels may change in the future…