Great Barrier Reef at risk of bleaching and coral death

Great Barrier Reef at risk of bleaching and coral death

Mass bleaching and coral death is expected along the entire Great Barrier Reef this summer, according to a long-range forecast that coral experts say is “a wake-up call” for the Australian government. In a response to this forecast, the Australian government has appointed marine biologist Ian Poiner as the new chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Coral bleaching is often caused by an increase in water temperature, and warmer water causes coral to expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues. This causes the coral to turn completely white and become more vulnerable, according to the National Ocean Service.

The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has forecasted another round of coral bleaching this summer but the severity of the bleaching can only be estimated at this point.  The agency forecasted a 60 per cent chance of extreme heat stress and bleaching.

Marine biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, explained:

“This is really the first warning bells going off that we are heading for an extraordinarily warm summer and there’s a very good chance that we’ll lose parts of the reef that we didn’t lose in the past couple of years. These are not good predictions and this is a wake-up call.”

Coral bleaching is one of the many ways that climate change has been damaging the environment in recent years. Experts say that time and money must be dedicated to preserving the health of the coral reef for future generations. The Australian Marine Conservation Society welcomed the appointment of Poiner but urged him to take an “aggressive conservation stance” on behalf of the reef.

Imogen Zethoven, campaign director of the Marine Conservation Society, commented on Poiner’s appointment:

“His most urgent and important task is to call on the federal government to undertake rapid and far-reaching action to tackle climate change to protect the future of the Great Barrier Reef.”

The AIDF Global Summit will return to Washington D.C, in 2019. 

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Photo Credit: BBC NHU

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