Tags: great barrier reef | bleaching | worst | ever | 2016

Great Barrier Reef Bleaching From 2016 High Water Temps Is Worst Ever

Image: Great Barrier Reef Bleaching From 2016 High Water Temps Is Worst Ever

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has suffered its worst bleaching event ever after water temperatures this year rose above average. (Debljames/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Monday, 28 Nov 2016 03:50 PM

High water temperatures during 2016 have caused the worst coral bleaching in history on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, with more than 90 percent of the reef affected.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies report said 67 percent of the corals in one northern section of the reef died because of the bleaching, while other areas were much less affected, BBC News reported.

Coral bleaching takes place when water temperatures are higher for an extended period of time. In February, March, and April of 2016, sea surface temperatures were the hottest ever recorded, at least 1 degree Celsius (nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average temperatures for those months, the BBC reported.

When coral is exposed to higher temperatures, it experiences heat stress, making it expel colored algae called zooxanthella, which is responsible for turning sunlight into food. The colorless appearance of the coral also leads to its gradual starvation, since it can’t make food without the algae, the BBC explains.

The 2016 bleaching of the algae was even worse than previous bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, wrote David Wachenfeld of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for The Conversation. Wachenfeld estimates recovery and reproduction of new coral may take 10 to 15 years or more, and that’s if water temperatures remain cool. Further warming episodes may cause irreparable damage that the reef may never overcome, he said.

Bleaching has also occurred in reefs in Hawaii and Fiji due to El Nino weather patterns that cause warmer than normal ocean temperatures.

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High water temperatures during 2016 have caused the worst coral bleaching in history on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, with more than 90 percent of the reef affected.
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2016-50-28
Monday, 28 Nov 2016 03:50 PM
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