30 percent of Great Barrier Reef Coral Died in 'Catastrophic' 2016 Heatwave


" One factor we can be sure about is your reef isn't going to appear exactly the same once more", Professor Hughes explained.

The reef endured coral bleaching in 1998 and 2002, but the northern region sustained only minor damage then.

Lead author Terry Hughes, a coral reef ecologist at James Cook University in Australia, wanted to measure the extent of the damage to the Great Barrier Reef, a rich ecosystem that includes more than 3,860 individual reefs over roughly 1,500 miles. Another heat wave that hit the reef system in 2017 exacerbated the situation.

Researchers call for more urgent action to prevent the Great Barrier Reef's decline as a result of climate change. Coral colonies can recover from such events, especially given that the species most susceptible to dying from heat stress are among the fastest-growing corals.

Some climate change models suggest that the world could lose as much as 90 percent of its reefs by mid-century, he said.

The researchers said that the increase in marine heat waves is driven by warming temperatures due to increasing amount of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as a result of human activities.

The scientists examined the impact of the 2016 marine heatwave that alone caused the death of about one-third of the Great Barrier Reef corals, mostly centred on the northern third section. Since 2010, Hughes said, the gap has shrunk to just six years.

"Overall we'll probably have less coral and overall we'll have less biodiversity", Professor Hughes added.

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The video below, taken in November 2016 by the ARC team, illustrates the aftermath of the extensive bleaching event that took place two years ago.

The reef is home to thousands of species, including sharks, turtles and whales.

Hughes and his team of ecologists closely examined the 2,300-kilometre Great Barrier Reef after the 2016 heatwave.

Some researchers are attempting to create super corals in the laboratory, including through genetic engineering, but that is not what Matz recommends.

While numerous most sensitive corals died immediately from heat exposure, many others died in the months that followed after they had been bleached and then been unable to recover. "We need to focus urgently on protecting the glass that's still half full, by helping these survivors to recover", he added. This is - the authors stress - the only way we can preserve the rich heritage of the Great Barrier Reef for future generations. It's even visible from space.

The study was conducted by researchers at James Cook University and Lancaster University, in the United Kingdom, who examined 16 reefs off Lizard Island, in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef. Eight months later, the juvenile coral had survived and grown, lending hope that coral transplants can restore similarly damaged ecosystems, not just in the Great Barrier Reef, but around the world as well. Half of all the corals in the Great Barrier Reef died since 2016, NPR reports. "Coral reefs provide tens of billions of dollars to economies and protect shorelines and infrastructures around the world".

The researchers are concerned about the possibility of a wide-scale collapse of reef ecosystems, especially if global temperature rise can not be controlled, the statement said.