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Roughly 2/3 Of Great Barrier Reef Already Bleached, Scientists Say

First Posted: Apr 10, 2017 04:11 AM EDT

Australia's massive coral reef, which used to stretch across 1,400 miles (2,300 kilometers), is slowly dying. In fact, the structure has suffered such severe damages that many fear there is no turning back.

National Geographic noted that the Great Barrier Reef is noted as the largest living structure on Earth, with a vast and intricate marine system half the size of France. It houses and nurtures over 1,500 species of fish that are now struggling to survive during the warm water attack that is killing their home for the second time in 12 months. This time, however, is worse. Last year was aided by the long-running El Niño, a natural warming period in the tropics. In 2017, there is no such phenomenon.

Robert Richmond, director of the University of Hawaii's Kewalo Marine Laboratory, noted the severity of the massive bleaching events, which have become more severe and longer lasting in closer periods. He said that the data gathered have been "truly daunting." He added that there is "no question that this is tied to climate change."

Other scientists agree. Buzzfeed News noted that Terry Hughes of the Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University said temperatures have been rising, and as these go on, corals will experience more and more of these events.

Dr. James Kerry, who conducted aerial surveys with Hughes, also warned that the back-to-back occurrences of bleaching events will prove recovery to be almost impossible in some areas of the Great Barrier Reef. "It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016," he shared.

To stop coral bleaching, scientists believe putting a stop on climate change is the way to go. Hughes warned the importance in cutting carbon emissions. Otherwise, recovery will prove impossible.

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