Great Barrier Reef 'suffers third mass bleaching in five years'

Eloise Marshall
March 27, 2020

They revealed a mixed picture, with some severe bleaching on reefs closer to shore, but outer "ribbon reefs" in the far north escaping damage.

This third major bleaching event follows the worst outbreak of mass bleaching on record, which in 2016 and 2017 killed some 50 percent of the shallow water corals in the world's largest reef system. In the case of the Great Barrier Reef, warmer waters in the area cause destructive and widespread coral bleaching.

For the third time in five years hit the coral reef the Great Barrier Reef hard by rising sea temperatures. Marine heatwaves are the main cause, but other threats such as farming pollution, coastal development and illegal fishing were also cited. The most deadly were the most recent, in consecutive summers in 2016 and 2017.

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, told Guardian Australia on Wednesday that the event was "severe". But not all bleached corals die: lightly or moderately bleached corals can recover. However if coral is severely bleached, it has a higher chance of dying.

"Climate change remains the single greatest challenge to the Reef", it said on its website, calling efforts to reduce global emissions "essential" to saving the reef. The crisis placed renewed pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison's pro-coal conservative government to take more extensive action to tackle climate change, including punishing greenhouse-gas polluters.

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In New Delhi , Modi met his cabinet at his residence, with ministers sitting apart from each other in a large room. India has merely 0.5 hospital beds for every 1,000 people, as compared with 4.Three in China and three.2 in Italy.

Earlier this month, David Wachenfeld, chief scientist at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, said ocean temperatures over the next month will be crucial to how the reef recovers from heat-induced bleaching.

Hughes, one of the world's leading authorities on bleaching and the Great Barrier Reef, said that the full impact of what has happened will be seen after an additional three days of "crucial" surveying.

Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of the Whitsunday Islands, along the central coast of Queensland.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority previous year downgraded its outlook for the corals' condition from "poor" to "very poor" due to warming oceans.

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