Great Barrier Reef suffers mass coral bleaching due to heat stress
The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing another "mass bleaching event," according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The government agency said that the widespread bleaching was caused by the high temperatures during Australia's record hot summer.
"Australia's lead management agency for the Great Barrier Reef can confirm mass bleaching is occurring on the Great Barrier Reef, with very widespread bleaching detected," the park authority said in a press release Thursday.
Dr. David Wachenfeld, chief scientist at the park authority, said in his weekly reef health update on Thursday that the unique ecosystem, located off Australia's north eastern coast, is now experiencing its third mass coral bleaching event in just five years.
Some reefs had no bleaching whatsoever, while others had "very severe bleaching with 80% or more of the corals observed being bleached," Wachenfeld said.
According to the park authority, "heat accumulation, particularly through February, led to bleaching which is now being observed through aerial surveys."
Since March 16, a team of scientists have flown above 344,000 square kilometers — over 130,000 square miles — surveying more than 800 individual reefs, in order to measure the extent and severity of coral bleaching. According to their observations, the worst bleaching was seen on reefs that "suffered the highest heat stress this summer," which accounted for "large areas of the Reef."
Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, posted highlights of the team's findings on Twitter. Hughes ...
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