Scientists warn coral reefs are largely in severe bleaching categories

After conducting several aerial surveys of more than 500 coral Reefs, from Papua New Guinea, to Cairns, Australia, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Australian Research Council), most of these reefs were deemed in the most severe bleaching group. Scientists warn that the Great Barrier Reef may soon be extinct if we do not act quickly. Scientists have reported that the Great Barrier Reef’s most intact section is currently experiencing the greatest mass bleaching in its entire history. The Great Barrier Reef is the most extensive coral reef system on the planet. It can be found off Queensland’s coast in the Coral Sea. It is made up of two ,900 individual coral reefs and two 900 island structures. This structure can be seen from the distance with the naked eye. It covers 2 ,300 kilometers. This unique area is both a natural treasure and home to some of the greatest biological diversity in the world. The Reef is facing serious threats: climate change, coastal development and catchment runoff are all factors that threaten it. Coral, a group of marine animals that are called coral plays a significant role in the creation and maintenance of the Great Barrier Reef. There are many species of marine life that call it home, such as sea snakes (sharks), sea turtles, sharks and giant clams. Ted Hughes, co-chair of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce said that the most recent study about the Great Barrier Reef’s health was “the saddest research trip I have ever made.” Nearly every single reef that we visited had consistently high levels, starting at the bottom of the reef and ending up on the top. Only four of the Great Barrier Reef’s most beautiful parts were free from bleaching. We flew 4000km. This bleaching is more severe than those that occurred in 2002 and 1998.”. “Even worse, we still have not found the southern limit. To determine where the bleaching stops, we’ll continue to conduct aerial surveys in central Great Barrier Reef. The southern Reef was able to evade the bullet because of cloudy weather which cooled the water temperature down.” Virtually every coral species is affected. Several island research stations are also documenting the effects of coral bleaching. This confirms what can be seen from the air. The majority of the reefs north from Cairns are suffering bleaching. This is a devastating development that affects almost every type of coral. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (part of the US Department of Commerce) states that corals can bleach when they are exposed to changes such as light or temperature. This is true for almost all species of coral. These hardy corals have turned white, a sign of how extreme summer conditions are on the north GBR (Great Barrier Reef). Prof. Hughes stated that scientists in the ocean are reporting 50% coral deaths. It’s too soon to know what the final outcome of this mass bleaching event will look like. As the impact of the mass bleaching event takes place, we will keep conducting underwater surveys at the Great Barrier Reef. There is overwhelming evidence that the Earth’s climate is heating. It is highly probable likely that this is due to human activity. The corals that live in tropical coral reefs can tolerate only a limited range of temperature. The sea surface temperatures are rising to extreme levels due to climate change, and corals have begun to bleach in the summer months. The bleached Acropora and Montipora plates corals at Cleveland Bay are located along the Queensland’s north-eastern coast. Coral bleaching intensifies as temperatures rise. Image by coralcoe.org.au Credit to Andrew Baird Two major bleaching episodes have occurred in the Great Barrier Reef over recent decades: – 1998: 42%. – 2002: 54% bleaching affected a majority of the reefs. What causes coral bleaching? Zooxanthellae is a tiny, colorful marine algae that lives inside corals. These algae provide corals much of the colour they need and their main source of energy. They die when the sea temperatures rise too high. These zooxanthellae cause coral bleaching. Coral tissue that isn’t zooxanthellae-free becomes transparent and exposes its white skeleton underneath. If conditions are not favorable, coral bleaching could lead to their death. However, the zooxanthellae levels can return to their normal levels if sea temperatures drop below that level. However, a bleaching incident can lead to a reduction in reproduction and growth. Bleached Branching Acropora at Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia. (Image: coralcoe.org.au. Credit to Bridie Gibbs. Coral reef resilience. No matter what you do, future bleaching events will happen. There are many steps that we can take locally, regionally, and globally to help the Great Barrier Reef survive. The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies wrote that improving the Great Barrier Reef’s outlook would mean reducing global carbon emissions. We must improve water quality at the state level. “Poor water quality can be particularly detrimental to coral growth, reproduction, and survival, greatly limiting the potential for reef recovery.” Research has shown that excess nutrients can cause crown-ofthorns epidemics which can destroy large areas of reef. Scientists are concerned about the future, however. (Image: coralcoe.org.au. Verena Schoepf Credit. How well we manage the coast development of trawling and shipping will have a significant impact on the Great Barrier Reef’s future resilience. It is a sad description of the widespread damage that scientists from James Cook University in Cairns (Queensland, Australia) have seen as coral bleaching continues to spread further within the northern Great Barrier Reef. Jodie Rummer is a Senior Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. She recently returned after spending more than a year at Lizard Island Research Station in the Northern Great Barrier Reef. Dr. Rummer was shocked by the severity of the bleaching. Dr. Rummer stated that she witnessed an underwater sight that no marine biologist and no one with a passion for nature, for that matter, would want to see.

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