There's only one way to save the Great Barrier Reef

More than 90 per cent of the most beautiful part of the reef has been wrecked after an underwater heatwave caused bleaching a new study shows

Scientists from ten research institutions representing Australia's National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, have returned to the reef only one year after scorching temperatures caused the worst coral bleaching event on record in 2016.

In the 2016 event, only 9% of the 1,156 surveyed reefs escaped with no bleaching, the study says. Sean Connolly, the co-author of the study, told CNN that the frequency and severity of bleaching events give slow-growing corals little chance to recover. In major parts of the remote northern sector of the reef, two-thirds of the corals ultimately died.

Hughes talked about the current bleaching on Tuesday, and he will take off for a seven-day flight mission to evaluate the damage to the Great Barrier Reef. This time past year, for example, the surprising discovery of a new, large coral reef in the murky waters of the Amazon was immediately tempered with the realisation that it's under threat. Coral bleaching occurs as a result of abnormal sea conditions, such as warmer or colder temperatures. "Now we're gearing up to study a potential number four".

When temperatures pass a threshold, the coral expels its symbiotic algal partner, leaving underwater wastelands of white-washed reefs. Professor Hughes put it into perspective for the NY Times by revealing that only nine percent of the reef has avoided bleaching since 1998. Importantly, though, it does contribute to the recovery of coral reefs after major bleaching. Hughes led the team that conducted aerial surveys to document the bleaching previous year, as well as subsequent surveys to assess just how much of that bleaching turned into dying.

"None of us were expecting the water to be heating up again right now", coral reef scientist Julia Baum of Canada's University of Victoria told the Associated Press.

A year ago a massive wave of bleaching struck the reef after an El Nino event brought abnormally warm waters to the region. It has been happening for nearly two decades on the Great Barrier Reef.

With even the most pristine areas affected by heat, the researchers warned tough action on global warming was needed to ensure the reef's future.

Significant chunks of the reef, dotted across hundreds of miles of the northern sector, were recently found bleached and dead - something previously estimated to be a full three-decades from becoming a reality.

Pratchett told BBC News he believed it is still possible to stop the damage now being done to The Great Barrier Reef by curbing emissions. It isn't an automatic death sentence for coral - that depends on whether the bleaching is mild or severe and how long the corals go without the algae.

He added: 'Water quality and fishing pressure had minimal effect on the unprecedented bleaching in 2016, suggesting that local protection of reefs affords little or no resistance to extreme heat.

Last year, Outside Magazine published an obituary for the Great Barrier Reef by writer Rowan Jacobsen. The first time I saw corals in late 2014, I could only be forced away from the magnificent underwater world because my oxygen tank was running low.



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