The Great Barrier Reef is dying due to global warming; Researchers warn

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The coral reef of the Great Barrier Reef. Credits: The Guardian.

The Great Barrier Reef which is a home to more than 2900 individual reefs, 900 islands and to myriads of living organisms and corals is under a great threat. Being one of the World Heritage Sites, its decline is of major concern.

Global warming is one of the major contributors to the slow death of this natural wonder where thousands of endangered species reside.  Cutting the global warming is the only way to protect corals from the coming cycle of mass bleaching events.

The Great Barrier Reef has been hit by mass bleaching for an unprecedented second year running.
Photograph: Chris Jones/Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

A study of three mass bleaching events on Australian reefs in 1998, 2002 and 2016 gives the potential hazards. According to the study, underwater heatwaves damaged these corals, in spite of improvements to water quality or fishing controls. The study also reports that 91% of coral on the reef has suffered from bleaching over the past two decades.

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This imag shows coral off Lizard Island while bleached in March 2016, and then dead and covered in seaweed in May. Photographs: the Ocean Agency

The research, published in Nature, raises serious questions about Australia’s long-term conservation plan for its famous reef. The paper, authored by 46 researchers, clearly states the global impact on the reefs present all over the world.

A graphic representation by an artist.
Credits: The Guardian- Graphics

Terry Hughes, the lead author is surveying another mass bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef. It is the first mass bleaching, occurring for a second consecutive year. In 2016, about 22% of coral was killed off in a single hit.

Sources: 1998 and 2002 data from Aims, 2016 data from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Hughes said the latest event had nothing to do with the warming effect of El Niño weather patterns. The researcher said fast-growing coral took 10-15 years to fully recover while longer-lived corals “necessarily take many decades”.

“With rising temperatures due to global warming, it’s only a matter of time before we see more of these events”, he said, pointing the recent consecutive bleaching. He just hopes this year soon turns cool, and saves the reef from damages.

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This imag shows coral off Lizard Island while bleached in March 2016, and then dead and covered in seaweed in May. Photographs: the Ocean Agency

Hughes also criticized the Australian and Queensland government for not taking necessary actions in Australia’s reef conservation plan. He also blamed them for supporting Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine. This is the world’s largest mine. Adani’s mine, which exports coal in ships through reef waters, is a major contributor to this problem.

Not only the carbon emissions from the coal affects it, but also the dredging and marine traffic through the reef. Hughes said, “In its weakened state, the reef cannot afford the Adani mine”

The home must be saved from its decline, else the world will lose thousands of its relatives.