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23 March 2017

New Report Highlights Plight of Great Barrier Reef amid Climate Change

One of the most discussed impacts of climate change over the years has been the damage done to Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef. The threat is posed by warming waters, resulting in the bleaching of the coral and, if left unchecked, its eventual death.

Worryingly, it has now emerged that the damage done to the Great Barrier Reef is much more severe than previously thought, according to a new report published in the journal Nature. The report states that there has been an “unprecedented” level of coral bleaching observed as a result of record breaking temperatures throughout 2015/16. The authors go on to say that if the Great Barrier Reef is to survive, then “immediate global action to curb future warming is essential.”

Professor Terry P Hughes, director of the Centre for Coral Reef Studies at Australia’s James Cook University and lead author of the report, told the New York Times, “We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years.

“In the north, I saw hundreds of reefs - literally two-thirds of the reefs were dying and are now dead.”

Three pan-tropical mass bleaching events have been documented in the past two decades, with bleaching events registered in 1998, 2010, and 2016. However, rises in both ocean temperatures and acidity levels as a result of global warming are escalating the problem causing further bleaching into 2017.

The continuation of the bleaching has been confirmed by an aerial survey undertaken earlier this year by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), which states that this is occurring due to the fact that the reef has little resistance to extreme heat.

David Wachenfeld, of GBRMPA, told ABC News, “I think what's important is that the climate is changing and that is bringing a much greater frequency of extreme weather events to the Great Barrier Reef,”

He further states that this is enough to “regrettably” confirm another case of mass bleaching.

So where does this leave us? Fortunately, there is still a glimmer of hope, as although coral bleaching does often lead to the death of the affected coral, exposure to cooler waters can help them to recover. We can’t exactly pick up the Great Barrier Reef and place it in an ice bath, so as the report itself states, we must take urgent action to correct the damage we have already done to our planet and its oceans, and take steps to prevent such destructive actions in the future.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.