Scientists in Australia have uncovered widespread damage to coral in the Great Barrier Reef, warning that "we are entering uncharted territory", after surveys showed consecutive years of bleaching for the first time.
"This is the first time we have ever seen bleaching in back-to-back summers", he said on Friday. Our analysis shows that Australia is failing to fulfill its obligation under the World Heritage Convention to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the impacts of climate change. In 2016, the research team registered the unsafe speed of the bleaching corals.
On Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a staggering 22 percent of corals died in 2016 - the worst coral die-off in recorded history.
The climate change increases the bleaching speed and harms the biodiversity of Australian waters.
Almost two-thirds of shallow-water corals in a 700-kilometre stretch of the reef's northern section were lost to last year's bleaching event, scientists have said. Algae is already beginning to overgrow numerous corals. If the coral dies, it will turn a nasty greenish-brown as other opportunistic algae grow on its surface.
The images were taken by marine biologist and conservation photographer Brett Monroe Garner, who documented the latest round of coral bleaching in conjunction with Greenpeace. Elevated ocean temperatures have triggered wide-scale coral bleaching events around the world, from the United States' Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, to France's Lagoons of New Caledonia, the Seychelles' Aldabra Atoll, and Kiribati's Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Scientists working with the World Weather Attribution team revealed that climate change made the warm waters that caused the bleaching previous year up to 175 times more likely.
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Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour.
The renowned expert stressed that this should act as a "wake up call" as this indicates back to back coral bleaching events, with only 12 months between them.
"Scientists warned that without sufficient emissions reductions we could expect annual mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef by 2050". The Marine Park Authority estimates that the reef supports roughly 70,000 jobs and generates $4.45 billion in tourism revenue each year.
The beauty and economics are, in part, why scientists are racing to save reefs in the face of climate change. "We are on target to be two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half degrees warmer by the end of the century, which is not a good target for our reefs".
"In the past few years, the effect of climate change on corals has been made frighteningly evident".