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Published: Fri, December 02, 2016
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Life and death following Great Barrier Reef bleaching

Life and death following Great Barrier Reef bleaching

"This one is by far the most extreme and we've seen three of these events now with just one degree of global warming".

The worst affected area, a 700 km swath of reefs in the northern region of the Great Barrier Reef has lost an average of 67% of its shallow-water corals in the past 8-9 months. Australian leaders may petition the United Nations to declare the Great Barrier Reef an "in danger" site, a move the worldwide coalition has stopped short of in recent years. High temperature waters can also cause coral diseases or migration. Farther south, over the vast central and southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef, the scientists were relieved to find a much lower death toll. "This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected", said Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University, who undertook extensive aerial surveys at the height of the bleaching. A collective effort is needed to save the corals of the Reef and they are asking for everybody's cooperation in the fight for saving one of the seven wonders of the natural world. "We suspect these reefs are partially protected from heat stress by upwelling of cooler water from the Coral Sea". However, many scientists are concerned that a fourth bleaching event in the region can disturb the growth of lost corals.

Healthy Coral in the Capricorn Group of Islands, Southern Great Barrier Reef, November 2016.

Fortunately, marine biologists will receive $33.6 million, which they will use to develop efficient strategies to facilitate the recovery of the Great Barrier Reef.

"Climate change is killing the Great Barrier Reef", Charlie Wood, director of 350.org, an anti-fossil fuels organization, told Scientific American.

"The continued mining and burning of coal, oil and gas is irreparably damaging the climate".

Their finding of the die-off in the reef's north is a major blow for tourism at reef which, according to a 2013 Deloitte Access Economics report, attracts about A$5.2 billion ($3.9 billion) in spending each year.

P&O Cruises Australia teamed up with a social enterprise beer company to support the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef. 'We hope everyone who likes a beer with help protect the Reef by supporting Great Barrier Reef beer'.

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