Published: Sun, March 12, 2017
Science | By Kerry Wheeler

Another Mass Bleaching Occurs In Great Barrier Reef

Another Mass Bleaching Occurs In Great Barrier Reef

Scientists in Australia have uncovered widespread damage to coral in the Great Barrier Reef, warning that "we are entering uncharted territory", after surveys showed consecutive years of bleaching for the first time.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and its partners took to the skies for six hours on Thursday to conduct aerial surveys of water between Cairns and Townsville.

"This is the second significant coral bleaching event in 12 months, but we don't believe it to be as bad as last year's event, but a lot will depend on the weather, with warm temperatures forecast".

The Greenpeace findings are backed by Terry Hughes from James Cook University's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, who called the second bleaching event the "worst kept secret in the world".

"Importantly, not all bleached coral will die".

"I've been photographing this area of the reef for several years now and what we're seeing is unprecedented", Monroe Garner said.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies is also preparing to repeat aerial surveys of a year ago to monitor changes, Terry Hughes, the Townsville-based centre's director, said.

"There's enough bleaching there to tell us that it is a significant heat-stress event", Russell Reichelt, the authority's chairman, said on Saturday. "This is the first time the Great Barrier Reef has not had a few years between bleaching events to recover", Cantin said. Also, there is no way to know how many could recover as algae have been overgrowing on numerous corals already.

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In 2015, UNESCO spared the Great Barrier Reef an "in danger" listing.

The algae that live inside corals give them their extraordinary color and provide the nutrients corals need to live, but corals have a limited temperature range in which they can survive.

John Tanzer, from WWF International, said: 'What is unfolding before our very eyes is the starkest evidence that climate change is already wreaking havoc on the ocean. Now, everywhere you look is white.

Advocacy group the Australian Marine Conservation Society added Friday that the construction of a mega India-backed coal project near the reef should be abandoned as it would put further pressure on the natural wonder.

Almost two-thirds of shallow-water corals in a 700-kilometre stretch of the reef's northern section were lost to last year's bleaching event, scientists have said. But as Yahoo noted, there are many other reefs around the world that are experiencing the same bleaching problem.

Bleaching happens when corals get stressed from rising water temperatures; the animals purge their algae and are left completely white.

A report by lawyers at Earthjustice and Environmental Justice Australia, being launched this week in Paris, outlines the global legal responsibilities of nations with World Heritage-listed coral reefs to take action to protect those reefs from the devastating effects of climate change.

"It's vital the world acts to implement the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions", he said.

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