The Great Barrier Reef has suffered the worst coral bleaching in history, as global warming imperils the vast organism’s future.
Higher water temperatures have had a devastating impact on swathes of the northern region of the reef, according to a damning report.
Over the past eight-nine months, two-thirds of a 700km section lost its shallow-water corals, James Cook University researchers found.
“This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected.”
Scientists predict that the northern region of the reef will take 10-15 years to recover, but yet another bleaching event could thwart progress.
Temperature rises caused by the El-Nino effect and climate change have caused widespread damage to the reef.
When the sea warms too quickly, coral expels the algae living in its tissue, causing it to turn completely white.
Earlier this year, an article proclaiming the death of the Great Barrier Reef went viral, to the dismay of many environmentalists.
Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said at the time: “We can and must save the Great Barrier Reef ― it supports 70,000 jobs in reef tourism.
“Large sections of it (the southern half) escaped from the 2016 bleaching, and are in reasonable shape. The message should be that it isn’t too late for Australia to lift its game and better protect the GBR, not we should all give up because the GBR is supposedly dead.”