Obituary For One of the World's Greatest Tourist Attractions Went Viral — But It's Wrong

Scientists call B.S. on a story that claimed the Great Barrier Reef was "dead."

If you read the swirling news that one of the world's most spectacular natural features was dead, maybe you got out your bucket list and a red pen. But don't cross the Great Barrier Reef off your list just yet — there is still time to visit, scientists say. They also say giving up on the site would be a huge mistake.

To recap, the viral article in Outside fell under this rather shocking headline: "Obituary: Great Barrier Reef (25 million BC - 2016)." And it was being shared like crazy on social media, with people mourning for the natural feature — whether they'd gotten a chance to visit or not — and outraged over human effects on the environment. But scientists were reading too — and it turns out they had encouraging news about the reef's health. Well, at least encouraging compared to the Outside report.

Because of pollution and water temperature changes, the reef is struggling and coral cover has decreased by 50 percent in the last 30 years. It suffers from "extreme coral bleaching," scientists confirm.

It's one of many world tourist attractions that could disappear along with places like the Dead Sea and Venice. 

But dead and drying aren't the same — and the distinction is important.

The Outside story was meant to get people's attention — and it did — however, most didn't realize the story was hyperbole. Even news sources took it at face value and tweeted out the statement.

Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies wasn't happy about the piece. He told the Huffington Post he was "not impressed by the [article’s] message that we should give up on the [Great Barrier Reef], or that it is already dead.” He went on to explain the reef's importance and say we need to strive to make it better. 

When asked on Twitter what was killing the Great Barrier Reef, Hughes answered bluntly.

In short, don't give up on the Great Barrier Reef yet — that's the message scientists want us to know. So go ahead and support the still-alive reef by planning that Australia vacation you've always dreamed of!

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