Environment

Great Barrier Reef bleaching even worse than first thought

Scientists have confirmed that 29 percent of shallow water corals in the Great Barrier Reef died from bleaching in 2016
Scientists have confirmed that 29 percent of shallow water corals in the Great Barrier Reef died from bleaching in 2016
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The Great Barrier Reef has suffered through three major bleaching events in modern history 
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The Great Barrier Reef has suffered through three major bleaching events in modern history 
Scientists have confirmed that 29 percent of shallow water corals in the Great Barrier Reef died from bleaching in 2016
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Scientists have confirmed that 29 percent of shallow water corals in the Great Barrier Reef died from bleaching in 2016
Shot from an aerial survey of the Great Barrier Reef
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Shot from an aerial survey of the Great Barrier Reef
Coral bleaching takes place as a result of abnormal sea conditions
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Coral bleaching takes place as a result of abnormal sea conditions
A scientist surveys the damage to the Great Barrier Reef
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A scientist surveys the damage to the Great Barrier Reef
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Coral bleaching takes place as a result of abnormal sea conditions
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Coral bleaching takes place as a result of abnormal sea conditions
The Great Barrier Reef has suffered through three major bleaching events in modern history 
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The Great Barrier Reef has suffered through three major bleaching events in modern history 
The world's largest reef system has suffered through a second consecutive coral bleaching event
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The world's largest reef system has suffered through a second consecutive coral bleaching event
The news has gone from bad to worse to seriously concerning for Australia's Great Barrier Reef
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The news has gone from bad to worse to seriously concerning for Australia's Great Barrier Reef

The news has gone from bad to worse to "very concerning" for Australia's Great Barrier Reef, with the world's largest reef system suffering through a second consecutive coral bleaching event that is proving even more destructive than first predicted.

Coral bleaching takes place as a result of abnormal sea conditions, including both warmer and colder temperatures, which place stress on the algae living inside the coral. This can cause the coral to expel the algae, which is critical to its health, leaving them white, withering and in danger of dying.

Prior to 2017, the Great Barrier Reef had suffered through three major bleaching events in modern history – 1998, 2002 and 2016 – and underwater and aerial surveys earlier this year indicated that 2017 would offer little reprieve, with scientists confirming back-to-back bleaching events were taking place. They had maintained hope that things would cool off quickly, but further surveys have now revealed that seems unlikely, along with the true extent of the current damage.

Scientists from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority have confirmed that 29 percent of shallow water corals died from the bleaching in 2016, an increase on the 22 percent they had predicted midway through that year. Deeper coral was also affected, but divers are unable to systematically assess mortality rates at those depths.

The scientists note that most of the mortality was confined to a northern section north of Port Douglas, and that there is evidence of strong recovery in the southern part of the reef due to the absence of bleaching and other impacts. These include the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish, which feast on the coral and make it more susceptible to storms, another impact, such as Cyclone Debbie that struck the reef in late March.

Warming oceans are expected to increase both the severity and frequency of mass bleaching events. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, global sea surface temperatures rose at an average rate of 0.13° F (0.07° C) per decade between 1901 and 2014.

"We're very concerned about what this means for the Great Barrier Reef itself and what it means for the communities and industries that depend on it," said Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Russell Reichelt. "The amount of coral that died from bleaching in 2016 is up from our original estimates and, at this stage, although reports are still being finalized, it's expected we'll also see an overall further coral cover decline by the end of 2017."

Source: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

5 comments
christopher
How are we supposed to believe *this* report, when the last one turned out to be fake, and the scientist who exposed that fakery got rebuked for impugning the reputation of the university (instead of praised for busting the scammer). Dishonesty in climate circles is way out of control.
Wolf0579
Disregarding the previous Faux "news" watcher.... I'm just wondering how long we're going to put up with the wrong-wing's dragging their feet and end all this fake denial regarding global warming. At some point, it's going to be come a matter of survival for coastal communities. Ask anyone who lives in Miami about the ocean creeping in. When will it be open season on republicans? And where can I get my license?
Bob
As an old scuba diver who notices little things like the 10-15 degree F. change in water temperature through the year when diving the coral reefs. I have to question whether this one degree increase over the past 100 years is that significant. I suspect that water pH, amount of sunshine, number of storms, and natural cycles of marine life play a much larger role in the health of the coral. To blame it all on global warming seems to be quite a stretch. With the growing world over population along with war, disease and famine; global warming is the least of my worries.
ljaques
I'm sure that wicked old Mankind is the reason for the Cyclone and it has nothing to do with the cyclical nature of nature itself. C'mon, folks. The temp of the shoreline ocean changes more every decade or so with El Nino/La Nina effects, and even moreso between summer and winter. Today's coral will die while soon evolving into less-temperature-sensitive coral in its place. As the paper said, it experienced a faster recovery than expected, too. Global Warming Alarmists, please CHILL!
Nik
Climate change is normal! Sea level changes are normal! Environmental changes are normal! They've been going on for millions of years, long before Homo Sapiens was around to invent Carbon Tax. There are coral reefs and beaches on mountain sides they've been there since long before humans were around. Whatever is happening is normal, and the coral will find new places to thrive. @Wolf0579 ...Dont Panic, dont PANIC! Dont believe the carbon tax propaganda either. CO2 has never caused climate change in 600 million years, even when it was 7000 ppm. Whatever is happening has nothing to do with 1 to 2 parts per million per year, of CO2 produced by human activity over the last 100 years or so. To think otherwise is ridiculous.