The bleaching event happening with the coral at the Great Barrier Reef may be worse than believed. This is according to a report updated in May 2017 by Australian scientists that study the Word Heritage Site. They tie the bleaching to climate change. Also, they point to the increased levels of carbon dioxide dissolved in ocean waters. The researchers say that, if this continues at its current rate, the once beautiful reef may be irreparably lost for future generations.
The Great Barrier Reef May Be Unsavable Because Of This Latest Bleaching Event
While the bleaching itself does not kill the corals directly, it causes them to expel algae. These use photosynthesis to feed both themselves and the coral. When the algae are gone, and up to 90% of them already are, the coral is subject to starvation. This can cause growth retardation and even death.
Aerial photography shows that 22% of the remaining shallow water coral in the reef died in 2016. Additional casualties are being spotted in deeper corals. Still, systematically accounting for their deaths has been difficult. Up to 95% of the entire Great Barrier Reef has been subjected to bleaching and die-offs. This has been causing concern in many communities within Australia and the rest of the world.
“There is a feeling of dismay in the science community as we continue to quantify the huge geography of this recurring phenomenon,” said Terry Hughes.
He is a biologist and the director of the Arc Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies part of the James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions may be the only solution. The problem comes from both the rise in oceanic temperature and the increasing acidity of the waters due to dissolved carbon. This creates carbonic acid, which can be harmful to many forms of marine life.
If this bleaching event is worse than believed, than the Great Barrier Reef may have already reached the critical point of no return so feared by scientists. A study released last year in Nature analyzed the effects of the 2015 -2016 bleaching event.