Scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies have confirmed the Great Coral Reef is in the midst of a third powerful bleaching event since 2015. The researchers have detected “very widespread bleaching” following a buildup of heat in the preceding months.
The warmer waters pose a direct danger to the coral reefs, their bleaching occurs as a result of abnormal temperatures. Normally, bleaching caused by the organisms to expel algae they normally rely on for nutrients and their colourful appearance. But regularly repeated bleaching events that are widespread and of great severity pose a real threat to the marine ecosystems.
In the case of the Great Barrier Reef, warmer waters in the area cause destructive and widespread coral bleaching, New Atlas reports. In fact, the Great Barrier Reef has endured mass bleaching events in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and now in 2020.
The latest aerial surveys of the Great Barrier Reef, conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, have shown that large areas of the reef have suffered high amounts of heat stress, and these areas have been subject to the worst bleaching.
Northern and central areas of the Great Coral Reef are in danger due to fast bleaching
As the latest studies revealed, some parts of the southern reef that escaped the bleaching of 2016 and 2017 have experienced moderate or severe bleaching. The marine ecologists reiterate that key tourism reefs in the northern and central areas have suffered moderate bleaching, and they expect most of these corals to recover.
Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Professor Terry Hughes, took part in the recent aerial surveys and noted on Twitter that this is worst than past years, along with some more grim observations.
While bleaching is bad news for corals, it is not necessarily a death sentence, with those mildly or moderately bleached often having a good chance of recovery. Unfortunately, repeated bleaching events are a real threat to ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef.
The saddest news is the ecologists expect this year’s event to drive a high coral mortality rate on the severely bleached sections of the reef.