Published: Fri, March 17, 2017
Science | By Boyd Webster

Australians Investigating Great Barrier Reef Bleaching for Second Straight Year

Australians Investigating Great Barrier Reef Bleaching for Second Straight Year

Scientists reported that at least 85 percent of the world's largest reef sustained damage a year ago with a good portion of that damage occurring in the northern-most part of the 2300-foot long reef.

The study analyzed 2016 bleaching events in the Great Barrier Reef, finding that they were mostly driven by rising temperatures and that local efforts to reduce pollution and overfishing did little to keep the reefs alive.

The bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef reached "unprecedented" levels past year.

The newly published research was led by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies Director Professor Terry Hughes, at James Cook University.

The damage was not uniform, with the southern section of the reef avoiding damage completely, while more northerly parts lost up to 83 percent of their coral.

"Globally what's been happening is the number of these bleaching events is going up and up, and the time interval between them is shrinking", said Hughes.

Coral bleaching occurs when the water it lives in becomes too warm. "Many coral species appear to be more susceptible to bleaching after more than 12 months of sustained above-average ocean temperatures". According to the United Nations, coral reefs serve as nurseries for about 25% of the world's fish.

This was the reef's third and worst severe bleaching event - prior events occurred in 1998 and 2002.

Extreme bleaching - in which more than 60 per cent of corals in a given area lose their colour - was more than four times as frequent in 2016.

Hughes said scientists had found no evidence that past exposure to bleaching toughened the corals.

The most recent global bleaching event was "unprecedented in recorded history", he said. "The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness", Jacobsen wrote.

The study released in the scientific journal Nature on Thursday shows protecting the embattled natural world wonder from fishing and poor water quality is doing little to prevent bleaching.

Large swaths of the Great Barrier Reef, extending for hundreds of miles along its northern section, were recently discovered to be dead, wiped out a year ago by water that was too warm, according to a new report in the journal Nature.

The Great Barrier Reef's hundreds of islands and 2,900 individual reefs stretch for nearly 1,500 miles along the coast of North East coast of Australia.

Coral bleaching or loss of algae poses a great threat to the Great Barrier Reef's survival.

And so one of the most delicate ecosystems on the planet begins to give up the ghost, with the Great Barrier Reef in decline.

"Average sea-surface temperatures for the Australian summer 2016 were the highest ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef", said Janice Lough, Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The first time I saw corals in late 2014, I could only be forced away from the magnificent underwater world because my oxygen tank was running low.

Like this: