After years of warnings from the community of environmental experts, scientists have now confirmed the next mass bleaching event, which means Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is in a terminal stage. Aerial surveys have found at least two-thirds of the reef has been bleached. These findings have caused all-round alarm within the scientific community which claims the proximity of the bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 is unprecedented and allows little chance for the damaged coral to recover.
Most of the reef bleaching occurred due to warming sea temperatures over the past two years. According to the Australian Research Council’s Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, back to back mass bleaching events during this time have affected a stretch of 1500 kilometers.
The reef caretakers have also warned it is going to face a fresh onslaught during the coming months. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chairman, Russell Reichelt had this to say, “In addition, the impacts of recent severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie, and resulting flooding in the catchment, have placed greater pressure on the reef potentially adding to coral loss.”
While last year’s bleaching intensified in the reef’s northern third, 2017 saw it spread further south, and escalate in the middle section of the reef. This year, the mass bleaching, which happens to be second in severity to that of 2016, preserved even in the absence of the forecasted El Niño event.
This is a phenomenon which is caused by global warming that increases sea surface temperatures and has happened on the reef at least four times in recorded history. According to the team leading the surveys on the reef, the length of time coral needed to heal from the bleaching is about ten years for the fast growing varieties.
The time needed and the present situation has raised the level of concern about the increasing frequency of bleaching. Professor Terry Hughes has warned that time is running out for Australia to save the reef by taking action on the matter of climate change.
Bleaching this year will probably be worse as it is compounded by other factors, such as the destructive crown of thorns starfish, as well as the decline of water quality. Unfortunately, Tropical Cyclone Debbie came too late in the season and too far to the south for its cooling effect to have a significant effect on the bleaching.
The government has promised $ 2billion for the protection of the reef over the coming decade, though researchers are still plagued by funding problems considering a lot of the plan’s objectives are not well resourced.The latest evaluation comes after the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority gave a warning to the Queensland State government of an increased and eventual risk concerning mass bleaching in 2017.
Because of the significant dependence on coal fuel sources for power and a relatively small population of 24 million people, Australia is seen as one of the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitters.
The scientific community has also come out to illustrate the government’s rescue plan to rescue the reef is far below adequate and notes that the new coal mines are not helping the situation.