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Published: Sun, March 12, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Mass Bleaching Is Hitting the Great Barrier Reef Again

Mass Bleaching Is Hitting the Great Barrier Reef Again

He said not all bleached coral would die, and previous year revealed bleaching and mortality could be highly variable across the vast marine park, a World Heritage Site which covers an area larger than Italy. When temperatures exceed certain limits, the corals get "stressed" and release the algae, losing their color and becoming effectively "bleached".

The recurrence of widespread coral bleaching in back-to-back summers indicated there was not enough time between last year's extreme heat event for the corals to fully recover, said Neal Cantin from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). Also, there is no way to know how many could recover as algae have been overgrowing on numerous corals already.

"I've been photographing this area of the reef for several years now and what we're seeing is unprecedented". What will happen to these people as large areas of coral die?'

His colleagues stress that the Barrier Reef is under non-stop pressure from farming run-off, normal development and reproductive health of the sea inhabitants.

AERIAL surveys of the Great Barrier Reef between Cairns and Townsville have confirmed yet another mass coral bleaching event is occurring - the second in 12 months. Now, everywhere you look is white.

Photos and footage taken by marine biologist Brett Monroe Garner at a reef between Port Douglas and Cairns - south of the hardest-hit northern section of the reef previous year - indicate severe bleaching of corals he said were "full of colour and life" just months ago. Its underwater surveys have revealed equally disturbing images of a reef in distress.

Consecutive bleaching events have arrived 30 years early. "This is the first time the Great Barrier Reef has not had a few years between bleaching events to recover", Cantin said.

Environmental groups are acting against the proposed construction of the largest coal mine in Australia, which could significantly contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions. The death rate of coral will be determined in the next six months.

The Australian and Queensland governments, which are obliged to show how they are jointly managing the reef's long-term conservation, acknowledge climate change is its main threat.

'We are extremely concerned moving into the future'.

Bleaching occurs when warm waters prompt coral to expel algae living within their tissues, turning white.

"Unfortunately, this global event has exposed 72 percent of the world's reefs to the sustained high temperatures that cause corals to bleach and/or die and half of them have been hit at least twice during the event", Mark Eakin, the coordinator of Coral Reef Watch, said.

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