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Great Barrier Reef: 93% of reefs hit by coral bleaching - 20th April

Coral Reef

A comprehensive aerial survey reveals the full extent of the devastation caused by abnormally warm ocean temperatures. Coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef shows up as white and yellow patches visible from aerial surveys.

The survey has covered 911 individual reefs along the 2,300km structure and almost 93% of reefs on the Great Barrier Reef have been hit by coral bleaching. There have only been 3 mass bleaching events recorded on the reef, and all of them have happened since 1998 with scientists stating that this episode is the worst they’ve ever seen.

The world is in the midst of a global bleaching event, which is a result of a pulse of warm water flowing around the Pacific Ocean caused by El Niño, and the background global warming caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Corals bleach when they experience temperatures above their normal summer maximum for a month or two. The situation is made worse if there are few clouds, and a high level of UV radiation blasts the coral.

Prof Terry Hughes (Head of the National Coral Bleaching taskforce) stated “only 68 of those reefs escaped bleaching entirely. If coral remains bleached for an extended period, it is likely to die. The northern region is already seeing mortality as high as 50%, and he expected that at some reefs it will exceed 90%.”

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