Thursday, 09 April, 2020

Major coral bleaching at Barrier Reef

A scorching February contributed to the warmest water temperatures in history for the Great Barrier Reef A scorching February contributed to the warmest water temperatures in history for the Great Barrier Reef
Sandy Nunez | 27 March, 2020, 06:54

Scientists say they have detected widespread bleaching, including extensive patches of severe damage.

Nearly 500 reefs, from the Torres Strait to Cairns, were observed in the previous 4 days, revealing significant bleaching on reefs closer to shore, but outer "ribbon reefs" in the far north have reportedly avoiding much of the damage.

The latest injury marks the third time in five years that it 344.000 sq km large coral reefs are being hit hard.

Warmer sea temperatures - particularly in February - are feared to have caused huge coral loss across the world's largest reef system.

The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its third mass coral bleaching event in five years, according to leading scientists. Marine heatwaves are the main cause, but other threats such as farming pollution, coastal development and illegal fishing were also cited.

UNESCO's World Heritage Committee is due to assess the Great Barrier Reef's status as a World Heritage site later this year. Some parts of the southern reef that escaped the bleaching of 2016 and 2017 have experienced moderate or severe bleaching. However if coral is severely bleached, it has a higher chance of dying. But not all bleached corals die: lightly or moderately bleached corals can recover.

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The world-renowned coral reef located at the Australia's northeastern coast.

The Great Barrier Reef has endured mass bleaching events in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and now in 2020.

"Climate change remains the single greatest challenge to the Reef", it said on its website, calling efforts to reduce global emissions "essential" to saving the reef.

"Coal-driven climate change is threatening our lovely reef, and the many communities and tourism workers who depend on a healthy reef for their livelihoods which are already at risk from the coronavirus outbreak", said Kate Smolski, acting program director of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. But repeated bleaching events that are widespread and of great severity pose a real threat to ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef, making it hard for them to recover before the next wave hits.

"The forecasts. indicate that we can expect ongoing levels of thermal stress for at least the next two weeks and maybe three or four weeks", Wachenfeld said in a weekly update on the reef's health.