Second Year of Severe Bleaching for Great Barrier Reef

11 April, 2017, 09:13 | Author: Jacqueline Ellis
  • Second Year of Severe Bleaching for Great Barrier Reef

About two-thirds of Australia's Great Barrier Reef has been damaged by back-to-back years of "severe" coral bleaching, a series of aerial surveys carried out by the team of Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies has revealed.

Nearly 800 coral reefs over an 8,000km area were assessed in the surveys by the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Widespread bleaching was recorded at the Great Barrier Reef in 2015, 2016, and this year.

New aerial surveys have shown that mass coral bleaching, which has been threatening the reef's health over the past few years, has damaged two-thirds of the ecosystem.

In 2016, severe bleaching hit the northern third of the reef.

In tandem with this new bleaching event, a 100-km (62-mi) corridor of the reef was recently damaged by Tropical Cyclone Debbie in late March.

Prof. Terry Hughes said that it was clear the reef was "struggling with multiple impacts" the most serious of which was global warming.

"Without a doubt, the most pressing of these [impacts] is global warming", Hughes said.

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A separate report warned that Australia's Great Barrier Reef had been hit by severe coral "bleaching" for the second year in a row in the face of record-breaking temperatures.

He said: "There is still a window of opportunity, but it is closing quite rapidly for us to start changing the amount of carbon emissions that we're putting into the atmosphere".

Two thirds of the natural wonder have fallen victim to coral bleachingCan the Great Barrier Reef be saved? It has attracted the attention of worldwide leaders such as former US President Barack Obama, who called for actions to protect the natural site from the effects of global warming.

The recent findings indicated that only the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef was still safe, but no untouched by bleaching.

The concern, the researchers say, is that the coral that was damaged during the mass bleaching in 2016 has no chance of recovery. "The Australian government has launched an unprecedented effort to invest more than A$2 billion ($1.5 billion)... in a Reef 2050 plan, which we're 18 months into", said Josh Frydenberg, Australia's Minister for the Environment and Energy.

Coral mass bleaching happens when warmer-than-usual waters cause the coral to expel living algae, changing its color to white.

The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia. If corals are undergoing a slight bleaching, they can recover if temperatures fall. "Going over those reefs this year, you can tell how low the coral cover was". The condition has been further aggravated by the rise in local temperatures.

"It's important to remember that a bleached coral is not necessarily a dead coral", said Kerry.

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