Coral bleaching affected two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: Study

Coral bleaching affected two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: scientists say

New aerial surveys have confirmed that back-to-back coral bleaching events have affected more than two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

A team of scientists with the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the Australian Research Council conducted the surveys, and scored bleaching at 800 individual coral reefs across 8,000 kilometers at the world’s biggest living structure.

The results proved that two mass bleaching events that took placed in the recent years have affected a 1,500-kilometer stretch, leaving merely the southern part of the reef unscathed.

Professor Terry Hughes, who led the areal surveys, said, “The significance of bleaching this year is that it’s back to back, so there’s been zero time for recovery. It’s too early yet to tell what the full death toll will be from this year’s bleaching, but clearly it will extend 500km south of last year’s bleaching.”

Alarmed scientists said the proximity of the massive coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 is just unprecedented for the Great Barrier Reef, and the event would give damaged reef little chance to recover.

However, the Queensland tourism industry has raised questions over the reliability of the new surveys, arguing that previously scientists had made exaggerated claims about mortality rates of coral beaches. The Great Barrier Reef is worth nearly $4 billion annually for Australia’s economy through tourism and fishing.