Large Portions Of Australia's Great Barrier Reef Dead, Scientists Make Shocking Claim

Richard Vevers  XL Catlin Seaview Survey  The Ocean Agency	Coral reefs are threatened by warming oceans

The researchers conducted aerial and underwater surveys of the Great Barrier Reef, which has experienced three major bleaching events, the worst of which occurred previous year. Huge swathes of reefs were devastated past year in the worst mass bleaching incident on record, with up to 83 percent of corals dying in certain areas, such as a long stretch north of Port Douglas.

Terry Hughes of James Cook University and colleagues analysed the impact of three major bleachings in the past two decades on Australia's reef.

"It broke my heart to see so many corals dying on northern reefs on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016", says Prof.

Bleaching "was even more extensive and much more severe" in 2016, the paper says, in part due to the boost to SSTs from the strong El Niño event. "Otherwise the coral may die".

Abstract: During 2015-2016, record temperatures triggered a pan-tropical episode of coral bleaching, the third global-scale event since mass bleaching was first documented in the 1980s.

"It's the number one thing we need to think about now to save the reef", he told the BBC.

Hughes believes that the world can still have coral reefs if the temperatures are maintained below 2 degrees, but not at 1 ½ degrees.

Hughes' discovery came in 2016 on an excursion into the underwater carnival of life, reporting on the third bleaching event since 1998 - with 2016 proving the most damaging of the trio. Given enough time, bleached coral can recover if the water cools, but if the temperature stays too high for too long, the coral will die.

The current event that is being noted along the famous stretch of Australian coast is not the worst event that scientists have witnessed.

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. In the absence of such measures, the possibility of the great barrier reef getting its former glory back, or at least a part of it is nearly impossible.

The damage to the Great Barrier Reef, which as stated is one of the word's largest living structures, is part of global affliction for almost two decades and is only intensifying.

While protecting reefs from fishing, and improving water quality is likely to help bleached reefs recover in the longer term, the study also revealed that it made no difference to the amount of bleaching during the extreme heatwave of 2016.

The researchers behind the report, entitled Global Warming and Recurrent Mass Bleaching of Corals, warn attempting to stop the bleaching through any other means will not be sufficient. The Guardian notes that both the national Australian government and the state of Queensland have been pushing for a coal mine that would not only contribute to warming through its emissions, but would require that ships travel over the Great Barrier Reef. 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.

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