How Has Suffered the Great Barrier Reef

How Has Suffered the Great Barrier Reef

For the third time in five years, the Great Barrier reef in Australia has suffered an enormous bleaching event. Bleaching occurs when waters are too warm, expelling algae and other living tissues in the coral reef, turning the color of the reef white. Only this time, all the sections of the Great Barrier reef has been significantly impacted. Thanks to Global warming, one of Australia’s best export has suffered significant damage.

February of 2020 was one of the hottest months that Australia has ever recorded. Professor Terry Hughes of James Cook University in Australia conducted an aerial study during the last weeks of March. The survey showed that 25% of the coral reef was severely bleached and 35% was moderately bleached. Unfortunately, all the sections of the reef (central, northern, and southern) were affected.

It is not the first time Australia has a severe case of coral reef bleaching. Back in, 1998, 2002, 2016 and 2017 bleaching struck Australia’s reefs but it was limited to a couple of sections. However, this time bleaching has affected almost all sections of the Great reef in a way Professor Hughes can only describe as heartbreaking.

According to the, moderately damaged sections of the reef will recover. The reefs will achieve this by incorporating species that are resistant to heat coupled with those that have been lightly bleached. However, this is a tall order considering most of the species were ‘literally fried’ during the peak of Australia’s heatwave at the start of 2020.

Unfortunately, some species will die at slowly as a result of stress exacerbated over the next months. Professor Hughes and his team will continue to study the water in November and October, to review the overall death toll.

Hughes fears for the southern reef which has not demonstrated an ability to conjure heat resistant species as compared to the northern or central reefs. This is because this particular reef has not been affected in the same capacity as the northern or central reefs.

In fact, the severe bleaching experienced in 2016 and 2017 annihilated about half the coral life on the Great Barrier Reef. According to Hughes, coral reefs take on an average of a decade to recover. However, in this case, it might take even longer. Three severe events in five years is not good at all.

Human actions have negatively influenced the occurrences of mass bleaching in the past decades. Climate change including warming temperatures, causes coral bleaching. Common practices that lead to warming temperatures include pollution, deforestation, soil erosion, and the use of pesticides and chemicals among others.

Mass bleaching of the coral reefs is an indicator of a larger problem. Most experts agree that greenhouse gases (gases which trap heat preventing it from leaving the atmosphere) are largely responsible for warming temperatures. Professor Hughes believes it is time we took better care of our environment. He believes this can only be achieved by disregarding false and negative information about climate change and our environment.