Earlier in 2016, a survey revealed that approximately 93% of the Great Barrier Reef was hit by coral bleaching. Coral bleaching isn’t irreversible, but coral regrowth is dependent on recovery time from unusually warm ocean temperatures. Things have not cooled down.
CNN reports that the Great Barrier Reef has suffered its “most devastating die-off on record” this year. In the last nine months, 67% of parts of the reef that were previously unaffected died off because of coral bleaching, covering a length of around 700 kilometers. Though the southern half of the Reef has been experiencing damage for the last thirty years, the northern parts was regarded as “pristine” until now. Scientists believe this is definitely connected to the the temperature of the water:
“We’ve seen three bleaching events (in the reef) and each time it can be explained by where the warm water was,” the report’s author, ARC Center of Excellent for Coral Reef Studies Director Terry Hughes, told CNN.
“In the north, the summer temperatures got up to two degrees above the normal maximum and that caused severe bleaching,” he said.
Hughes says that 2016 has been the most devastating recorded incident of coral bleaching along the Great Barrier Reef, though there was noted damage in 1998 and 2002. He stated, “It’s quite sobering, we’ve now seen three of these events, each one was more severe than the last and these have occurred with less than one degree of global warming.”
Hughes says it could take up to fifteen years for the reef to grow back, and this is of course dependent on the circumstances being conducive to repair rather than further coral death. A spokesman for Australia’s Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said that there would be a decision made this year about whether or not to declare the Great Barrier Reef “in danger.”