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The Great Barrier Reef is bleaching again

The Great Barrier Reef is bleaching again

Following a recent aerial survey of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, scientists are trying to find new ways to prevent a possible total wipeout of the coral reefs. There has been a prolonged global mass bleaching under way for the past year, and climate researchers say almost all the world's corals will be at risk by mid-century under projected global temperature increases.

The bleaching a year ago of the reef "strongly reinforces the urgent need to limit climate change", says David Wachenfeld. In major parts of the remote northern sector of the reef, two-thirds of the corals ultimately died. "The severity of the 2016 bleaching was off the chart", Hughes explained. The paper's authors write that while even the fast-growing corals could take 10-15 years to recover, the longer-lived corals could take many decades to recover - assuming ocean temperatures don't keep rising. It was a game-changer for the reef and for how we manage it. According to the United Nations, coral reefs serve as nurseries for about 25% of the world's fish.

He said even if global temperature rise was limited to 1.5C, corals were in for a tough time, with bleaching set to occur every second year on average. Repeated and sustained periods of hot water and bleaching weakens the entire coral reef ecosystem, researchers found. Hughes led the team that conducted aerial surveys to document the bleaching a year ago, as well as subsequent surveys to assess just how much of that bleaching turned into dying.

The data provided no evidence that water quality could protect against bleaching, nor that corals having undergone a previous bleaching event protected them the next time round. The hotter the waters and the longer they're around, the greater the stresses and the more likely the corals are to succumb to them.

The bleaching - or loss of algae - in 2016 was the worst on record.

A year ago a massive wave of bleaching struck the reef after an El Nino event brought abnormally warm waters to the region.

Unfortunately for the Great Barrier Reef, many sectors seem to be well into the starving stage.

Just last week, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority announced that another mass bleaching event is underway - the first time bleaching events have occurred in back-to-back years. "In the north, I saw hundreds of reefs - literally two-thirds of the reefs were dying and are now dead", said Dr. Hughes.

Acropora corals, such as this one, are the worst hit by bleaching events.

When it comes to climate change's impact on the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian government has by-and-large ignored the problem. Moreover, he had led surveys across the Reef that showed that several patches the Great Barrier Reef is dead and' it won't recover soon. The study claims water quality and fishing pressure "had minimal effect" on the bleaching, with local efforts affording "little or no resistance to extreme heat".

The former was banned in the 1970s in many parts of the world, which means that during its four-decade run, enough PCB was produced - estimated at 1.3m tonnes - to have a potentially damaging impact 40 years later.


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