Great Barrier Reef has "zero prospect" of recovery in bleaching

Great Barrier Reef

But aerial surveys show that 900 miles of the 1,400-mile-long reef have been severely bleached in the past two years.

"It really was shocking to see the similar levels of severe bleaching this time in the central Great Barrier Reef that I saw a year ago in the northern third of the reef", said Dr. James Kerry, part of the team at the Australian Research Council's center of excellence for coral reef studies.

This year, the middle third of the reef has experienced particularly intense bleaching.

The new aerial survey was completed last week of the Great Barrier Reef by scientists from Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Professor Terry Hughes, who led the surveys, told the Guardian, "The significance of bleaching this year is that it's back to back, so there's been zero time for recovery".

It should be noted that the aerial survey techniques used in this study were employed consistently in all four bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef: 1998, 2002, 2016 and 2017.

The bleaching - or loss of algae - affects a 1,500km (932 miles) area of the reef, according to scientists.

Last year's mass bleaching was driven in part by the "El Nino" weather phenomenon in the Pacific, which pushes up temperatures, but this year's problems occurred even without the effects of El Nino.

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Unless temperature drops, massive global warming is affecting us and other living organisms equally, with some suffering more damage than others.

After an aircraft survey of 5,000 miles above the Australia's Great Barrier Reef, scientists were able to determine on April 9 that warm waters have caused a bad bleaching event, destroying massive coral swaths.

He said: "There is still a window of opportunity, but it is closing quite rapidly for us to start changing the amount of carbon emissions that we're putting into the atmosphere". This time, a survey shows that two-thirds of the reef is affected. Securing a future for coral reefs "ultimately requires urgent and rapid action to reduce global warming".

Coral bleaching is a stress response that happens when an increase in sea temperatures causes the expulsion of algae that grow inside coral, turning the reefs white and eliminating their main energy source.

A diver examines recent bleaching on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Despite hope that this year's bleaching wouldn't be "anything like last year", scientists returned with disheartening news.

With it taking a decade for corals to fully recover from damage, the back-to-back bleaching left "zero prospect" of recovery for reefs hit a year ago, the experts warned. "But now that bleaching is happening every year or every other year in some areas, recovery will be hard if not impossible", he says. The condition has been further aggravated by the rise in local temperatures.

The back-to-back bleaching events, and the increased spread south of the damage now leaves only the southern third of the reef untouched, and while bleached coral doesn't necessarily mean the coral is dead, the dual impact of these losses decreases the reef's natural ability to fix itself.

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