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In Pictures: The Staggering Decay of the Great Barrier Reef

Mass coral bleaching has destroyed nearly 35 percent of the Great Barrier Reef.

Updated
Environment
2 min read
Decomposing corals at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef. (Photo Courtesy:<a href="http://www.globalcoralbleaching.org/#essential-facts"> XL Catlin Seaview Survey</a>)

The Great Barrier Reef is dying, and it is not a slow death – nor is the staggering rate of decay relenting. According to Australian scientists, mass coral bleaching has destroyed at least 35 percent of the northern and central Great Barrier Reef.

Scientists said the coral mortality figure will likely rise as some of the remaining 65 percent of coral in the Northern and Central reefs fail to recover from bleaching.

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Australian scientists said in March that just seven percent of the Great Barrier Reef had avoided any damage as a result of bleaching, and they held grave fears for coral on the north reef particularly.

After further aerial surveys and dives to assess the damage across 84 reefs in the region, the scientists said the impact of bleaching is more severe than expected.

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Australia is one of the largest carbon emitters per capita because of its reliance on coal-fired power plants for electricity. Climate scientists argue that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth, creating global warming.

The decay is by no means a natural death. The increasing temperature of the water over the years is resulting in excessive bleaching in the reef.

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The areas that suffered the worst bleaching were the areas where the water was the hottest for the longest time.
Terry Hughes, Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
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According to the XL Catlin Seaview Survey of The University of Queensland, mass bleaching was first recorded in 1979. It is believed that it was a watershed year, as around that time the “short term temperatures which normally accompany El Nino events began exceeding temperatures that the corals could tolerate.”

(With inputs from Reuters and AP.)

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