Thursday, June 30

Heat Stress Hits Coral in Great Barrier Reef

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Coral on the Great Barrier Reef is in trouble, again. Indeed, the Australian agency in charge of managing the reef just said it has been hit by “significant heat stress” over the summer.

The Great Barrier Reef, the most extensive coral reef in the world, is listed as a World Heritage Site. Scientists and researchers from the United Nations are visiting the reef this week to determine whether it should be listed as “in danger.” The reef just avoided such a designation last year, after intensive lobbying efforts in Australia led UNESCO to postpone such a decision until now.

Meanwhile, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority reported last week that water temperatures were as much as 2 to 4 degrees Celsius above average during the Australian summer that just ended.

The Authority said that bleaching was detected across the park: “It is widespread but variable across multiple regions, ranging in impact from minor to severe.” (See the Authority’s pictures above, showing the difference between healthy coral and bleached coral.)

“Most observations of bleaching have been paling or fluorescing,” the Authority said, “but several locations have whole colonies bleached white.”

The Authority is continuing its aerial and water observations across the reef. The UN officials will report back to UNESCO for its final decision in a few months.

Conservation organizations are urging the Australian government to do more to fight climate change, and ultimately protect the reef. “Only urgent action on climate change will give the reef a chance to survive,” said Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Read more:



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