Mass bleaching hits Great Barrier Reef for second year in a row

Apr 10, 2017

By Richard Schiffman

The bad news for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef just keeps on getting worse.

Last month, scientists from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, reported that the northern third of the reef was severely bleached in 2016. Well over half the corals there were lost in that event.

Today, the same team announced that the central portion of the reef, a popular tourist area, is now suffering a similar fate. Corals bleach – and can die – when stresses such as abnormal heat make them expel their symbiotic algae.

In 2016, the bleaching was caused by El Niño, a periodic global climate event that heats up a vast band of the ocean’s surface in the equatorial Pacific.

But this year’s bleaching is occurring during a so-called “normal” year without such an event.

“The water is just too damn hot,” says Terry Hughes, the leader of the survey, who fears that climate change is creating a new norm that corals are unable to endure.

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2 comments on “Mass bleaching hits Great Barrier Reef for second year in a row

  • Those committed to the reckless production of coal and pollution from ports exporting coal, should take note!

    The Great Barrier Reef is worth A$56bn (£33bn; $42bn) and is critical to supporting economic activity in Australia, according to a new report.

    Deloitte Access Economics calculated the figure on the reef’s total “economic, social and icon value”.

    It found the reef contributes A$6.4bn to Australia’s economy and supports 64,000 jobs.

    The report said more should be done to protect the reef, which has been hit by recent mass coral bleaching events.

    The study was commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a charity dedicated to protecting the World Heritage-listed icon.

    Using economic modelling, the authors calculated the reef is worth A$29bn to tourism and A$3.2bn to recreational visitors such as divers.

    It is also worth A$23.8bn in “indirect” or brand value – meaning Australians who have not visited the reef but value knowing it exists.

    The data was based on a six-month study of scientific and economic sources, and a new survey of more than 1,500 people from 11 countries.

    Mr Sargent said the total value was 12 times greater than the Sydney Opera House.

    Lead author John O’Mahony said the results confirmed the reef had “incredible value” in terms of biodiversity, creating jobs, and reputation internationally.

    Mass coral bleaching in consecutive years damaged two-thirds of the reef, according to surveys in April.

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