Last year we saw the devastating effects of ocean warming on the Great Barrier Reef. We all held our breath and hoped that if these coral reefs were shielded from illegal fishing and ocean pollution that they might have a chance to recover from these massive coral bleaching events. But can even the most protected, pristine coral reefs survive global warming? (photo – Chris Jones/Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) See related post: Ocean Warming Faster: New Research Shows.
Unprecedented Spikes in Ocean Temperatures
Research just released in Nature, shows that these efforts afforded little protection to unprecedented spikes in ocean heat. Scientists studied the last three bleaching events that hit Australia’s reefs in 1998, 2002 and 2016. They concluded that having endured the two earlier events did little to provide resistance for the severity of the 2016 bleaching. Like-wise efforts to ensure water quality and lessen fishing had little effect. “even the most highly protected reefs and near-pristine areas are highly susceptible to severe heat stress.” (photo -Bette Willis/Coral Reef Studies)
2016 -2017 Back-To-Back Bleaching Events
“The severity of the 2016 bleaching was off the chart” said Terry Hughes the report’s lead author. It was determined that in 2016 the Great Barrier Reef suffered a loss of 22% of its coral. Not included in the research was that 2017 saw the continuation of the coral bleaching, an unprecedented occurrence of back-to-back years of reef damage and that 2017 was unrelated to El Nino weather patterns. The scientists concluded that if there was another event within the next decade, the reef’s ability to recover would be “slim”. (photo – Chris Jones/Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)
“With rising temperatures due to global warming, it’s only a matter of time before we see more of these events. A fourth event after only one year would be a major blow to the reef” said Hughes.
Stop the Carmichael Coal Mine!
Hughes also had criticism for the governments of Queensland and Australia and their support for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine (the world’s largest coal mine) and for the suggested dredging of a shipping channel through the Great Barrier Reef. “In its weakened state, the reef cannot afford the Adani mine,” he said. See our recent Blue Ocean posts on the Great Barrier Reef and the Adani mine: Cash Cows Clash over Last Ditch Effort to Dig Australian Coal and: Great Barrier Reef was a Poster Child for Ocean Warming and Dirty Fuel in 2016
End Global Warming to Save the Great Barrier Reef
Consequently, given the severity of the threat facing the world’s coral reefs the report’s authors call for immediate action on a global scale to halt global warming if we want any future for coral reefs worldwide.
See the Guardian’s excellent coverage on the devastating coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, visit: Stopping global warming is only way to save the Great Barrier Reef, scientists warn. And the Great barrier Reef: a catastrophe laid bare
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