Australia’s Great Barrier Reef facing “mass bleaching”

Coral bleaching, photo by Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, one of the most famous natural sites in the world, is suffering a mass bleaching event. Due to bleaching in 2016, 2017 and 2020, 66% of the reef’s coral was damaged. Bleaching occurs when rising ocean temperatures cause corals heat stress, and drain them of their colours.

The UN threatened to lower the reef’s World Heritage ranking in 2015. Australia then poured billions of dollars into trying to better protect the reef. This year, the Australian government announced new funding to prevent the reef from being removed from the World Heritage list altogether.

But now, over 90% of coral in the reef is reportedly “bleached”. A UN delegation visited the reef in March to assess whether the reef’s World Heritage listing should be downgraded. That month, marine park authorities said the bleaching was “widespread” across multiple regions, ranging from minor to severe.

This followed a marine ‘heatwave’ in February. Some countries are disappointed to be have their natural sites listed as “in danger”, while others want their natural sites on this list to get international attention to help save them.

But David Wachenfeld, a chief scientist at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority, told Australian media this week that “the early indications are that the mortality won’t be very high”. Wachenfeld said marine authorities hope that most of the bleached coral will recover like it did in 2020.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on earth, and can be seen from outer space.

Global warming severely impacts Australia’s ecology and environment. A meteorologist said a storm that killed at least 13 people earlier this month was caused by a long stream of airborne moisture. Scientists say climate change is worsening Australia’s floods, brushfires, cyclones and droughts – events which have increased in their frequency and intensity in recent decades.

SOURCE: Associated Press

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Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.