Cli­mate change is killing reefs, says study

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

Bleach­ing has killed more than a third of the coral in the north­ern and cen­tral parts of Aus­tralia’s Great Bar­rier Reef, though corals to the south have es­caped with lit­tle dam­age, sci­en­tists said.

Re­searchers who con­ducted months of ae­rial and un­der­wa­ter sur­veys of the 2,300km reef off Aus­tralia’s east coast found that about 35 per cent of the coral in the north­ern and cen­tral sec­tions of the reef are dead or dy­ing, said Terry Hughes, di­rec­tor of the ARC Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence for Coral Reef Stud­ies at James Cook Univer­sity in Queens­land state. And some parts of the reef had lost more than half of the coral to bleach­ing.

The ex­tent of the dam­age has se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions, Hughes said. Older corals take longer to bounce back from bleach­ing, and likely won’t have a chance to re­cover be­fore the next bleach­ing event oc­curs, he said. And dy­ing coral af­fects much more than the coral it­self - it af­fects other crea­tures that rely on coral for food and shel­ter.

“Is it sur­pris­ing? Not any­more. Is it sig­nif­i­cant? Ab­so­lutely,” said Mark Eakin, the coral reef watch co­or­di­na­tor for the US Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion. “We’re talk­ing about los­ing 35 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion of coral in some of these reefs - that’s huge.”

The dam­age is part of a mas­sive bleach­ing event that has been im­pact­ing reefs around the world for the past two years. Ex­perts say the bleach­ing has been trig­gered by global warm­ing and El Nino, a warm­ing of parts of the Pa­cific Ocean that changes weather world­wide. Hot water puts stress on coral, caus­ing it to turn white and be­come vul­ner­a­ble to dis­ease.

This is the third mass bleach­ing event in 18 years to strike the Great Bar­rier Reef, and in each case, the ar­eas that suf­fered the worst were the ar­eas where the water was the hottest.

WHITE: The bleach­ing is dam­ag­ing larges parts of the reef

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