Science & Technology

Australia confirms massive bleaching on Great Barrier Reef

Sydney, Australia, Mar 25 (EFE).- Australian authorities said Friday that the Great Barrier Reef, located in the northeast of the country, is suffering massive coral bleaching, the sixth instance since 1998, despite conditions caused by the La Nina phenomenon, which helps cool ocean waters.

This bleaching linked to the climate crisis comes at a time the UNESCO mission is evaluating the health of the Great Barrier Reef, which runs the risk of being classed on the list of Heritage in Danger this year, as well as measures adopted to protect it within the framework of the Plan Arrecifes 2050.

“More than half of the live coral cover we can see from the air is severely bleached and may have signs of fluorescence in pink, yellow and blue colors,” Australian Marine Sciences Institute biologist Neal Cantin said.

The expert added, in a video about the aerial survey of 750 reefs with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority that corals produce these fluorescent pigments” in an attempt to protect their tissues from the heat and intense sun during these marine heat waves.

The authority said in its weekly report that “if conditions are moderate, bleached corals may recover from this stress, as in 2020, when there was very low coral mortality associated with a massive bleaching event.”

The government agency said weather patterns in coming weeks will be decisive in determining the bleaching’s scope and severity in the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral system at 348,000 sqkms.

Rick Leck, head of Oceans for WWF-Australia, said in a statement that “the images of bleached corals are a heartbreaking reminder for Australia that it can do much more to mitigate climate change to protect the Great Barrier.”

The Great Barrier Reef – which has previously suffered significant bleaching in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020 – was on the verge of being included last year in the list of Heritage in Danger.

The reef, whose situation at the end of 2020 was classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature from “significant concern” to “critical” – the worst conservation classification – continues to be at the mercy of the climate crisis.

Home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of molluscs, the Great Barrier Reef began to deteriorate in the 1990s due to the double impact of warming sea water and increased acidity due to the greater presence of CO2 in the atmosphere. EFE


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