Scientists Record Great Barrier Reef's Worst Bleaching Period To Date

As per a new report, the famous Great Barrier Reef of Australia is currently experiencing its third mass bleaching in the span of a mere five years, and, unfortunately, it’s shaping up to be the most widespread bleaching that has ever been recorded in all of human history.

Widespread Coral Bleaching

Coral bleaching is usually caused by coral polyps that expel the algae living in their tissues, which happens in the first place because of warmer temperatures in the water. This makes the corals more vulnerable to disease in addition to stunting their growth, affecting their reproduction and even impacting other species that make the corals their homes.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening in the Great Barrier Reef at the moment and it’s the biggest one so far.

This is all according to recent aerial surveys that were conducted over a nine-day period late last March, which revealed that 25 percent of the 1,036 reefs that were analyzed is experiencing bleaching at a severe level since 60 percent of them had been bleached. Another 35 percent of the reefs had less extensive bleaching.   

“This is the second most severe event we have seen, but it is by far the most widespread,” Terry Hughes, a marine biologist and director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, said. Hughes reportedly led the aerial surveys along with scientists from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

However, what’s even more concerning, is that the southern third of the reef (which has managed to remain unscathed for the longest time) is now experiencing it too.

“For the first time we have seen bleaching in all three regions of the reef — the north, the middle and the south,” Hughes said. “We are seeing more and more bleaching events and the gap between them is shrinking. Those gaps are important because that’s the opportunity for corals to rebound and make a recovery…. It takes about a decade for the fastest-growing corals to fully rebound.”

As such, further studies are being made to come up with better solutions.

coralreef A protein that blocks HIV from attaching to the body's T cells was discovered off the coast of Australia. USFWS - Pacific Region, CC BY 2.0