Record co­ral kill-off on Great Bar­rier Reef

The Myanmar Times - - World -

SCI­EN­TISTS yes­ter­day con­firmed a mass bleach­ing event on the Great Bar­rier Reef this year killed more corals than ever be­fore, with more than two thirds de­stroyed across large swathes of the bio­di­verse site.

The 2300-kilo­me­tre long (1400mile) reef – the world’s big­gest co­ral ecosys­tem – suf­fered its most se­vere bleach­ing in recorded his­tory due to warm­ing sea tem­per­a­tures dur­ing March and April with the north­ern third bear­ing the brunt.

Fol­low-up un­der­wa­ter sur­veys, back­ing ear­lier aerial stud­ies, have re­vealed a 700-kilo­me­tre stretch of reefs in the less-ac­ces­si­ble north lost 67 per­cent of their shal­low-wa­ter corals in the past eight to nine months.

But fur­ther south over the vast cen­tral and south­ern re­gions, in­clud­ing tourist ar­eas around Cairns, there was a much lower death toll.

“Most of the losses have oc­curred in the north­ern, most-pris­tine part of the Great Bar­rier Reef,” said Terry Hughes of James Cook Uni­ver­sity.

“This re­gion es­caped with mi­nor dam­age in two ear­lier bleach­ing events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly af­fected.”

Bleach­ing oc­curs when ab­nor­mal en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, such as warmer sea tem­per­a­tures, cause corals to ex­pel tiny pho­to­syn­thetic al­gae, drain­ing them of their colour.

Sci­en­tists es­ti­mate the north­ern re­gion, which teems with marine life, will take at least 10-15 years to re­gain lost corals, but are con­cerned that a fourth ma­jor bleach­ing event may oc­cur be­fore that. –

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