TECH

Only 7 Per Cent Of The Great Barrier Reef Has Survived Bleaching By Global Warming

20/04/2016 11:36

Scientists confirmed this week that just 7 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef has escaped coral bleaching caused by rising sea temperatures as a result of global warming.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies compared the effect of the bleaching to the Reef being hit by 10 cyclones simultaneously.

"We’ve never seen anything like this scale of bleaching before." said Professor Terry Hughes, convenor of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce.

ARC

Scientists have been using aerial monitoring along with divers to confirm the extent of the damage and found that the damage drastically varied over the reef's 2300km length.

What they found was that the northern third of the reef was the worst affected while the southern most tip managed to survive relatively unscathed.

Prof. Andrew Baird from ARC has spent the last 14 days at sea examining the damage.

 "Tragically, this [the North] is the most remote part of the Reef, and its remoteness has protected it from most human pressures: but not climate change."

"North of Port Douglas, we’re already measuring an average of close to 50% mortality of bleached corals. At some reefs, the final death toll is likely to exceed 90%."

Baird says that the study has confirmed their worst fears with some of the slower growing corals taking potentially decades to grow back, if they can at all.

What is coral bleaching?

Global warming is causing the Earth's climate to warm, indeed this March will mark an 11 month high for the planet's global temperature.

Massive coral formations like the Great Barrier Reef are extremely sensitive to these changes in temperature, no matter how small.

Ho New / Reuters

Zooxanthellae are a tiny algae which live in abundance within the coral and give the Great Barrier Reef much of its colour and more importantly, most of its energy.

When the temperature gets too warm this algae quickly dies out, taking away the colour which in turn leads to the 'bleaching effect'.

Bleached coral becomes transparent, weak and will eventually die out if the Zooxanthellae fails to return.

While bleaching is normally a seasonal occurrence on a small scale, an increase of this size could do irreparable damage to the reef.

Ho New / Reuters
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