Science

Coral Reef Bleaching Becomes Alarmingly Widespread This Year

By Donna Bellevue , Feb 24, 2017 01:49 AM EST
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Scientists warns about another widespread coral reef bleaching across the Great Barrier Reef again this year. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority says that underwater surveillance surveys on reefs show an "elevated and imminent risk" of widespread coral bleaching. The authority have also received "increasing anecdotal reports" of coral bleaching from tourism operators, scientists, marine park rangers and community members.

In Australia, corals in the Great Reef Barrier have suffered massive bleaching due to a heatwave which has caused record-breaking temperatures and wildfires. Swathes of corals were killed last year due to the extreme heat. Now, satellite thermal imaging of the area has revealed that waters are again unusually warm, putting the corals on red alert for further significant bleaching.

Last month, Japan’s environment ministry reported the largest coral reef bleaching in the country. Over 70 percent of the country’s coral reef was confirmed “dead” after sea temperatures were between one and two degrees Celsius higher than normal. Rising sea surface temperatures are said to have devastated the coral reefs, leading scientists to predict another severe bleaching for a record-breaking fourth year in a row, the Independent reports.

Marine biologists warns that current targets for reducing damaging greenhouse gas emissions are not enough to prevent another catastrophic loss of the world’s coral reefs. The continuing rise of temperature means bleaching events are inevitable. Studies suggest that coral death will occur with increasing frequency, unless drastic action is taken to stop global climate change, the ABC reports.

Coral reef bleaching occurs when the corals expel symbiotic photosynthetic algae which can be triggered by stresses such as higher water temperatures, causing them to drain all color and eventually die. The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has urged the government to address the problem which is expected to worsen as new coal mines are set to run. Scientists say that if the government fail to take action, there's nothing else to be done for new coral bleaching in February, and the likelihood of extensive severe bleaching and mortality in the next four weeks.

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