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Australia Great Barrier Reef suffers another mass bleaching

03:42  27 march  2020
03:42  27 march  2020 Source:   cbsnews.com

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Australia's Great Barrier Reef has suffered another mass bleaching event - the third in just five years. Scientists say they have detected widespread bleaching , including extensive patches of severe damage. But they have also found healthy pockets.

A mass bleaching event of coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef has occurred again in 2020 - Copyright MIA HOOGENBOOM/Mia Hoogenboom. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has suffered a mass bleaching event - the third in just five years. The reef ’s head management agency confirmed

Great Barrier Reef. © imageBROKER/REX Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing another "mass bleaching event," according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The government agency said that the widespread bleaching was caused by the high temperatures during Australia's record hot summer.

"Australia's lead management agency for the Great Barrier Reef can confirm mass bleaching is occurring on the Great Barrier Reef, with very widespread bleaching detected," the park authority said in a press release Thursday.

a group of coral: ap060123033692.jpg © AP ap060123033692.jpg Dr. David Wachenfeld, chief scientist at the park authority, said in his weekly reef health update on Thursday that the unique ecosystem, located off Australia's north eastern coast, is now experiencing its third mass coral bleaching event in just five years.

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The Great Barrier Reef Authority, an Australian government agency, based its announcement of mass bleaching on observations, still underway, made in the water and from the air. Last year, before the recent heat wave and bleaching , the authority published a detailed assessment of the reef ’s outlook

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has likely experienced its most widespread bleaching event on record, according to a U.S. government scientist who monitors the world's coral reefs . This marks the third mass bleaching event on the reef in just the last five years. And scientists say that the rapid warming

Some reefs had no bleaching whatsoever, while others had "very severe bleaching with 80% or more of the corals observed being bleached," Wachenfeld said.

According to the park authority, "heat accumulation, particularly through February, led to bleaching which is now being observed through aerial surveys."

Since March 16, a team of scientists have flown above 344,000 square kilometers — over 130,000 square miles — surveying more than 800 individual reefs, in order to measure the extent and severity of coral bleaching. According to their observations, the worst bleaching was seen on reefs that "suffered the highest heat stress this summer," which accounted for "large areas of the Reef."

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Great Barrier Reef ’s latest bleaching confirmed by marine park authority. Severity of damage has increased, with areas The government agency responsible for the Great Barrier Reef has confirmed the natural landmark has suffered a third mass coral bleaching episode in five years, describing the

Reef authority says findings of aerial surveys show enough to confirm another mass coral bleaching event, after last year’s dramatic death rate.

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, posted highlights of the team's findings on Twitter. Hughes called the bleaching they saw "unprecedented" and "extreme."

Bleached corals are not dead; however, if bleaching is severe and prolonged enough, many of the corals will die, according to the ARC. If coral dies, it can take at least a decade to replace it.

Bleaching occurs when reefs are exposed to stressors, such as warming ocean waters. According to the ARC Centre, climate change is the "single greatest challenge to the Reef."

"The greatest threat facing reefs today is without doubt climate change," Hughes told the ARC in February. "And this is not a risk that might affect them in future, but something that is harming them right now."

a large body of water: The deteriorating Great Barrier Reef 25 photos © Provided by CBS News The deteriorating Great Barrier Reef 25 photos Since the 1980s, when mass coral bleaching was first discovered, bleaching events have occurred repeatedly as global temperatures continue rise. The Great Barrier Reef has suffered four bleaching events over the past 22 years — two of which occurred back-to-back, in 2016 and 2017.

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This year's mass bleaching was the worst-ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef , following two previous events in 1998 and 2002. Professor Hughes is certain that the increased water temperature is the result of carbon emissions, and warns that climate change could bring annual bleaching within 20

Photos: Australia's Great Barrier Reef suffers 'extreme' coral bleaching . Some of the bleaching of reefs in the northern section has been described The mass bleaching events in the past few years -- and the prospect of losing one of nature's greatest treasures -- should be considered a wake-up call

According to Wachenfeld, many of the same reefs that experienced unmatched bleaching in 2016 and 2017 are also experiencing bleaching now. Many of these reefs are located near the coastline, he said. Additionally, some reefs that did not experience bleaching in 2016 and 2017 are now showing moderate or severe bleaching, meaning that they are experiencing bleaching for the first time in recent years.

"It's really important to note that some of the key tourism areas, particularly in the northern and central Great Barrier Reef, have only shown moderate bleaching," Wachenfeld said. At that level of bleaching, scientists are hopeful that most of the coral on those reefs will recover.

"Coral reefs are not just beautiful places where wealthy people can enjoy a holiday," Hughes said. "We should not forget that 400 million people depend on them for their livelihoods and their food security."

  Great Barrier Reef suffers another mass bleaching © Greg Torda/AAP Image In a 2019 Nature paper, Hughes showed that the successive bleaching events caused by climate change led to a 89% drop in coral larvae births on the Great Barrier Reef, when compared to the historical average.

Hughes wrote on Twitter Thursday that, to him, witnessing the widespread bleaching was akin to "an art lover wandering through the Louvre....as it burns to the ground."

Hughes said it is not too late to save the Great Barrier Reef. Along with global efforts to reduce emissions, enhancing reef resilience is also critical.

In 2018, the Australian Government committed $1.9 billion — $1.4 billion U.S. dollars — as part of the Reef 2050 Plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef. According to the park authority, the money has gone towards putting more rangers on the water, enhancing water quality programs, as well as marine science and state-of-the-art monitoring of reef environments.

"The window of opportunity to save reefs remains open, but it is closing rapidly," Hughes said. "So we have to act now to reduce pollutant emissions and stop wasting time."

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