The Great Barrier Reef is dying, and there might be zero hope of recovery.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is approaching “terminal stage” after two years of consecutive mass coral bleaching, according to scientists who just got back from an aerial survey of the World Heritage site, as reported by Express UK.
Researchers, who recently surveyed the 2,250 km long Great Barrier Reef, said that unusually warm waters caused severe coral bleaching on two-thirds of the reef. The bleaching data on the world’s largest reef was collated after researchers surveyed about 800 individual coral reefs.
A previous survey conducted last year confirmed that two-thirds of corals in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef are dying due to warm waters caused by global warming.
This year, researchers from ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland announced that the central part of the reef has been severely damaged following another year of warm climate.
“We’ve had a back-to-back bleaching for the first time,” said Professor Terry Hughes, who directs the center.
“So we redid our aerial surveys again, which was a bit tough. I was hoping to never have to do it again,” Hughes tweeted. “I showed the results of aerial surveys of #bleaching on the #GreatBarrierReef to my students, And then we wept.”
Coral mass bleaching happens when warmer-than-usual waters cause the coral to expel living algae, changing its color to white. Coral bleaching, usually, is no cause for worry since mildly bleached coral can recover itself once temperature drops. Global warming, however, has been keeping the waters warm longer than usual, thus not giving the Great Barrier Reef enough time to recover itself.
“Bleached corals are not necessarily dead corals, but in the severe central region we anticipate high levels of coral loss,” James Kerry, senior research officer at the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, explains.
“It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest-growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs damaged in 2016.”
This is the fourth time the Great Barrier Reef has suffered mass coral bleaching since 1998.
As previously reported by The Sun, category four Cyclone Debbie, which left a trail of disaster in northeast Australia and New Zealand, could have damaged the Great Barrier Ref even more. The amount of damage the storm left in its wake is still unknown at this point, but scientists said it could range from minor to severe.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority conducted a study last week to determine the extent of the damage and have found destroyed coral at famous snorkeling spots.
“The feedback that’s coming back is the more sheltered areas have come out a bit better, but they all seem to have suffered some form of damage,” Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators’ Brendon Robinson said.
Professor Hughes said that the Great Barrier Reef is not considered dead yet, but it’s going there if no concrete action plan is made to salvage the site.
“Clearly the reef is struggling with multiple impacts. Without a doubt the most pressing of these is global warming,” he said.
“As temperatures continue to rise the corals will experience more and more of these events. One degree Celsius of warming so far has already caused four events in the past 19 years.
“Ultimately, we need to cut carbon emissions, and the window to do so is rapidly closing.”
Hughes reminded Australia to take decisive action in saving the reef since tourists are spending £3.15 billion each year to pay the tourist attraction a visit.
[Featured Image by Phil Walter/Getty Images]