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Great Barrier Reef hit by some of the worst coral bleaching in years

Great Barrier Reef hit by some of the worst coral bleaching in years

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has been hit by one of the worst mass coral bleaching event in five years. 

Great Barrier Reef hit by some of the worst coral bleaching in years

Australian Academy of Science Fellow Professor Terry Hughes discusses the devastating environmental impact of the event on the local marine life.

 

Following Australia’s massive bushfires in summer 2019-2020, scientists measured the temperature of the water in the Great Barrier Island and forecasted massive bleaching to occur.

February’s sea surface temperatures were the highest ever recorded along the reef, and now researchers have captured the true extent of the bleaching.

After surveying over 1,000 reefs, the scientists were able to map out the true extent of the bleach. The image below shows the number of reefs (in red) suffering from the bleaching.

“When the extent of bleaching is that high, we do typically measure very high levels of mortality,” says Professor Hughes.

With the acceleration of climate change, mass coral bleaching events are becoming more common – there have been just three in five years.

“It’s surprising, the speed of these events,” says Professor Hughes. “We’re going to see more of these bleaching events in the future, tragically and the only way to secure a future for the world’s coral reefs is to deal with greenhouse gas emissions.”

What is coral bleaching?

Coral bleaching occurs when corals are stressed by changes in conditions, such as temperature, light or nutrients. This causes them to expel algae, making them turn white.

The corals are not dead, but are under significantly more stress and at risk of mortality. This disrupts the ecological balance and impacts the marine life that depend on the coral communities.

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