Published: Fri, March 17, 2017
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

Tackling global warming key to saving Great Barrier Reef

Tackling global warming key to saving Great Barrier Reef

"On the remote northern Great Barrier Reef, hundreds of individual reefs were severely bleached in 2016 regardless of whether they were zoned as no-entry, no-fishing, or open to fishing, and irrespective of inshore- offshore differences in water quality", the scientists note.

Corals are tiny polyps that live with colorful algae. The structures are left bright white, and if temperatures don't return to normal, the coral can die.

Corals need warm water to prosper, but they are remarkably sensitive to heat.

Ever since the dramatic influx of warm water in the region last March, experts have been trying to assess the extent and damage. "I don't think we'll see reefs with that very high coral cover and complexity in the future". The Barrier also experienced this in 1998 and 2002, but it has never happened two years in a row.

The Reef, off the northeast coast of Australia, is protected from local water pollution and overfishing.

Only nine percent of the reef has avoided bleaching since 1998. One worrisome finding is that clean water, a necessity for a healthy reef system, is not enough for the living structure to fix itself after a bleaching event occurs due to elevated ocean temperatures.

Last week, he said an aerial survey had shown evidence of mass bleaching in consecutive summers for the first time.

The study, published in Nature, found it was much greater in scope and severity than the two previous major events. It warns that these mass bleaching events shouldn't be considered one-off disturbances, but a recurring risk that poses a threat to coral reefs around the world. Due to climate change, the corals have been exposed to heat-induced bleaching.

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In short, the Great Barrier Reef, one of the most iconic ocean ecosystems in the world, will dramatically change in appearance and function within our lifetime. The central and southern sections that managed to survive are bleaching now.

HOOGENBOOM: We know from our results in the current paper that we can predict which reef's bleached the worst based mostly on temperature of the water at that time.

50 Reefs is a project aiming to identify those reefs with the best chance of survival in warming oceans and raise public awareness. Average global ocean temperatures have gone up by around 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century.

Address climate change and reduce emissions, both nationally and globally. The question was whether such efforts could provide the corals any resistance to bleaching, or just help them recover.

Researchers concluded that the only way to save the Great Barrier Reef is to stop global warming.

The former was banned in the 1970s in many parts of the world, which means that during its four-decade run, enough PCB was produced - estimated at 1.3m tonnes - to have a potentially damaging impact 40 years later.

The Great Barrier Reef's hundreds of islands and 2,900 individual reefs stretch for nearly 1,500 miles along the coast of North East coast of Australia.

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