The Great Barrier Reef has lost 50% of its corals to climate change

The Great Barrier Reef has lost 50% of its corals to climate change

A recent study has revealed that corals of the Great Barrier Reef have more than halved since 1995. The study, which was done by researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, warns that the Great Barrier Reef is in danger. The scientists behind the study have attributed the loss to greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers now say that if actions are not taken to reverse greenhouse gas emissions, the Great Barrier Reef may soon be unrecognizable. The research was based on an analysis of the number of corals of all sizes between 1995 and 2017.

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Terry Hughes, one of the authors of the study and a professor at James Cook University, said that massive coral bleaching events were recorded in 2016 and 2017. These events are associated with record-breaking water temperatures experienced during these years.

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The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, accounts for all major coral bleaching events between 1995 and 2017. However, since 2017, there have been other major bleaching events, including one that took place this year. The bleaching that happened this year affected the southern part of the reef severely, causing further coral reef loss.

“I began surveying the reefs in 1995, and what subsequently unfolded certainly wasn’t planned for. There have been five major bleaching events since then, including three in just the past five years,” Hughes said.

Although the reef is losing corals of all sizes, Hughes says that he is more concerned with the depletion of the large ones. Without large corals, it is not possible for the reef to repair itself. According to the researchers, specific strains of corals seem to be more affected than others. The staghorn corals and the table corals are the most impacted by the recent events.

“Those two types of corals are the most three-dimensional — they form habitats,” Hughes explained. “The reef is flatter and less three-dimensional now.”

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority downgraded the outlook of the reef to “very poor” in its 5-year health report released last year. The health report identified climate change as the biggest challenge to the existence of the reef. For the Great Barrier Reef to survive the coming years, actions have to be taken to reverse the effects of climate change now.

+ Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Via The Guardian

Photography by Andreas Dietzel

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