Canberra: Australia's environment minister on Friday said bleaching in the world-famous Great Barrier Reef is "major and significant", after renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough said climate change has put the attraction in "grave danger".
Greg Hunt, head of the government's environment portfolio, said current bleaching affecting the reef, which occurs when water temperature rises above comfortable level, was "still unfolding" and could cause further damage to the coral.
The minister's comments come as a result of a briefing from the Reef 2050 Independent Expert Panel, which revealed severe bleaching of the reef between the towns of Cape York and Cooktown.
Bleaching can stunt the recovery of, and sometimes kill, many varieties of coral.
"The event is still unfolding and the full extent and severity of bleaching may take several weeks to manifest," Hunt told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Friday.
"If major disturbances such as bleaching events occur more regularly, this will affect the reef's ability to recover."
Renowned nature documenter and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough also shared concerns for the future of the natural wonder.
In a documentary to be aired by the ABC this weekend, he said humans need to do more to protect the reef from "the consequences of our own behaviour", Xinhua reported.
"The twin perils brought by climate change, an increase in the temperature of the ocean and in its acidity threaten its very existence," Attenborough said.
"Do we really care so little about the Earth on which we live that we don't wish to protect one of its greatest wonders from the consequences of our behaviour?"
Despite growing fears of the reef's future, John Gunn from the Australian Institute of Marine Science said the reef had actually experienced widespread coral growth in its southern parts.
"In the south, we've seen an almost doubling in the amount of coral that we last saw in 2012," Gunn said.
"From a really low base, it's the worst conditions for the reef previously but it has rebounded quite excitingly," he said. "The centre of the reef has rebounded as well."
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.