Mass Bleaching Is Hitting the Great Barrier Reef Again

Brett Monroe Garner  Greenpeace

Yesterday's survey of the central third of the Reef's length revealed severe bleaching; this area largely escaped last year's event, according to the GBRMPA.

However, Wachenfeld said it was too soon to know how this year's bleaching event compared to that seen last year.

The images, released by Greenpeace on Friday, add to what the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has described as reports of "scattered coral bleaching along a large stretch" of the reef, from Mackay in the south to the far north.

"We can't afford to sit by and watch climate change drive all the world's coral reefs to extinctions by the end of the century", Julia Baum, a reef researcher at the University of Victoria, told Climate Central previous year.

Coral can survive for a while after bleaching, but generally die off within about two months. Last year, the same thing killed off 22 percent of its corals.

The back-to-back bleaching is also an indication that the coral is losing its ability to recover from extreme heat, Neal Cantin from the Australian Institute of Marine Science said in the release.

While mildly bleached corals can recover if the temperature drops and the algae return, severely bleached corals die.

"I've been photographing this area of the reef for several years now and what we're seeing is unprecedented", Monroe Garner said.

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The health of the Great Barrier Reef is in "uncharted territory" after researchers found there had been mass coral bleaching for two summers in a row for the first time.

'Just a few months ago, these corals were full of colour and life. Now, everywhere you look is white.

"This is the second significant coral bleaching event in 12 months, but we don't believe it to be as bad as last year's event, but a lot will depend on the weather, with warm temperatures forecast".

"What's happening with global warming is that these events are becoming the new normal", he told BuzzFeed News.

"We are working closely with the Commonwealth to ensure we gather all the information required to determine the extent of this latest bleaching event", Mr Miles said.

Bleaching happens when corals get stressed from rising water temperatures; the animals purge their algae and are left completely white.

Environmental groups have heavily criticised the proposed construction of the world's largest coal mine in Queensland's Galilee Basin, which will produce 60 million tonnes of coal a year and significantly contribute to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.

The Australian and Queensland governments, which are obliged to show how they are jointly managing the reef's long-term conservation, acknowledge climate change is its main threat. "We are extremely concerned moving into the future".

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