After the most recent bleaching event scientists have revealed that our beloved Great Barrier Reef is in a “terminal stage”.
The most recent surveys have indicated that we have lost two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef to bleaching after a record-breaking Australian summer. Approximately 1,500km of 2,300km is now bleached. Researchers have estimated that the reef will take a decade to recover, given it has a year or so of no bleaching to recover.
"It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016." Says James Kerry from James Cook University’ ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
Essentially bleaching is when the water becomes so warm the corals stress and eject symbiotic algae. Without this algae the coral begins to starve and turn white.
Water quality expert, Jon Brodie from James Cook University admits the reef is now in a ‘terminal stage’.
"We've given up, it's been my life managing water quality, we've failed."
Lead researcher Terry Hughes showed the results of the aerial surveys to his students and wept at the devastating mass bleaching that has occurred over the past two years.
This year Cyclone Debbie hit parts of the Great Barrier Reef that were largely untouched by bleaching events.
Clearly the reef is struggling with the constant rise of water temperatures. Without a shadow of a doubt, Global Warming is responsible for the catastrophic damage done to the reef.
“1°C of warming so far has already caused four events in the past 19 years. Ultimately, we need to cut carbon emissions, and the window to do so is rapidly closing," Said Hughes
The reef will never be the same. And future generations will never experience the reef in its full glory if at all.
It’s time to act now before there’s nothing left.
Header: PHOTOGRAPH BY GARY BELL, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE