Great Barrier Grief: 93% suffer coral bleaching

Melbourne: Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef is suffering its worst coral bleaching in recorded history with 93 per cent of the World Heritage site affected due to rising water temperatures, scientists said yesterday.

A diver photographing the bleached coral at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Pic/AFP
A diver photographing the bleached coral at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Pic/AFP

Researchers unveiled the full extent of the coral bleaching that is unfolding on the world’s largest coral reef system, off the coast of Queensland. The final results of extensive aerial and underwater surveys show that 93 per cent of the reef has been affected. It is a mixed picture of very severe, moderate and little damage that changes dramatically from north to south along the 2,300km length of the Reef, researchers said.

On the west coast of Australia, researchers are also discovering large-scale bleaching caused by elevated temperatures on both sides of the Australian continent. "We’ve never seen anything like this scale of bleaching before. In the northern Great Barrier Reef, it’s like 10 cyclones have come ashore all at once," said Professor Terry Hughes, convenor of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce that is documenting and studying the event.

"Towards the southern end, most of the reefs have minor to moderate bleaching and should soon recover," said Hughes.

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