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Great Barrier Reef Suffers Worst Ever Coral Bleaching And Damage In 2016

First Posted: Nov 29, 2016 04:30 AM EST
Great Barrier Reef
Australia's Great Barrier Reef suffered the most damage this year and it could continue because of the warming waters.
(Photo : Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Scientists have confirmed that Australia's Great Barrier Reef suffered the largest coral bleaching and die-off ever recorded this year.

Researchers in Australia, who have been tasked to survey the damage, said that the worst affected area, a 400-mile (700 kilometers) swath of reefs, has lost an average of 67 percent of its shallow-water corals over the past 8 to 9 months.

"Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef. This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected," Professor Terry Hughes, who led the assessment, said in a press release by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef.

He added that the southern two thirds, however, were not greatly affected and only suffered minor damage. However, about 6 percent of the bleached corals died in the central region in 2016 and only 1 percent in the south.

Warming Oceans Caused Coral Bleaching

According to BBC, in the months of February, March and April, the sea surface temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef were the warmest on record, with at least 1 degree Celcius higher than the monthly average.

In 2016, the mass bleaching seen was the worst-ever recorded, following two prior bleaching events in 1998 and 2002. One of the reasons these events happen is because of the increased water temperature caused by carbon emissions and global warming.

Professor Hughes added that if climate change would not be curbed, it could bring annual bleaching within two decades.

"Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef," he said as reported by BBC.

"This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected," he added.

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