Worst bleaching on record for Great Barrier Reef
|Data shows bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef coincides with |
record warm ocean temperatures in the region [Credit: AFP]
"This will change the Great Barrier Reef forever," Terry Hughes, an expert on coral reefs from James Cook University, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"We're seeing huge levels of bleaching in the northern thousand kilometre stretch of the Great Barrier Reef."
|A diver films a reef affected by bleaching off Lizard Island|
in Australia's Great Barrier Reef [Credit: AFP]
Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour.
Hughes, convener of Australia's National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, agreed in a statement that the southern reef had "dodged a bullet due to cloudy weather that cooled the water temperatures down".
|A diver is seen filming a reef affected by bleaching off Lizard Island |
in the Great Barrier Reef [Credit: AFP]
"We flew for 4,000 kilometres in the most pristine parts of the Great Barrier Reef and saw only four reefs that had no bleaching," he said. "The severity is much greater than in earlier bleaching events in 2002 or 1998."
Fellow James Cook University expert James Kerry said more surveys were to follow, but the damage seen from the air in the north was severe, often falling into the highest category of level four, meaning 60 percent of the coral was bleached.
|Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, |
cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour [Credit: AFP]
But Kerry said abnormally high temperatures were expected to continue in the northern reaches of the reef for another week.
The Great Barrier Reef—the world's biggest coral reef ecosystem—is under pressure from the threat of climate change, as well as farming run-off, development and the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.
coral reefs pictured between Cairns and Papua New Guinea on the |
Great Barrier Reef in Queensland's far north [Credit: AFP/James Kerry]
Conservationists put the bleaching squarely at the feet of climate change.
"When you look at those stark, white photos, you're looking at the face of climate change," WWF-Australia spokesperson Nick Heath said.
Source: AFP [March 28, 2016]