Research reveals only 2% of Australia's Great Barrier Reef escaped bleaching

WION Web Team
Sydney, Australia Published: Nov 05, 2021, 02:49 PM(IST)

An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of the Whitsunday Islands, along the central coast of Queensland Photograph:( AFP )

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The findings come during a landmark United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where Australia committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 but failed to announce a more ambitious 2030 target

A new study has revealed that only two per cent of Australia's Great Barrier Reef has escaped bleaching since 1998.

The research, conducted by the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Biology.

According to the study's lead author Terry Hughes, ''Five bouts of mass bleaching since 1998 have turned the Great Barrier Reef into a checkerboard of reefs with very different recent histories, ranging from two percent of reefs that have escaped bleaching altogether, to 80 per cent that have now bleached severely at least once since 2016.''

Also read | What is World Heritage List and why is Great Barrier Reef facing a downgrade?

He has warned that the reef will survive if global warming is kept to 1.5 degrees.

''If we go to 3, 4 degrees of global average warming which is tragically the trajectory we are currently on, then there won't be much left of the Great Barrier Reef or any other coral reefs throughout the tropics,'' Hughes said.

The findings come during a landmark United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where Australia committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 but failed to announce a more ambitious 2030 target.

Bleaching occurs when healthy corals become stressed by spikes in ocean temperatures, causing them to expel algae living in their tissues which drains them of their vibrant colours. 

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Meanwhile, co-author Sean Connolly said, ''Corals still need time to recover before another round of heat stress so they can make babies that will disperse, settle and recover the depleted parts of the reef.''

"Action to curb climate change is crucial."

It comes after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison lobbied to keep the Great Barrier Reef off the 'in danger' list issued by the World Heritage Committee.

Eighty percent of the World Heritage-listed wonder has been bleached severely at least once since 2016.

In July, scientists working under the government said that corals have shown some signs of recovery since the last bleaching but admit the long-term outlook for the 2,300-kilometre-long (1,400-mile-long) ecosystem is "very poor".

Cyclones and outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish also cause damage to the reef.

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