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Great Barrier Reef Officially Dead? Scientists Confirm Largest Die-off Of Corals Ever Recorded

Great Barrier Reef Officially Dead? Scientists Confirm Largest Die-off Of Corals Ever Recorded
Caption: Staghorn corals killed by coral bleaching on Bourke Reef, on the Northern Great Barrier Reef, November 2016. Credit: Greg Torda, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Environment

Great Barrier Reef Officially Dead? Scientists Confirm Largest Die-off Of Corals Ever Recorded

Large swaths of the Great Barrier Reef are now dead in what has been confirmed by scientists as the largest coral die-off in the reef’s history. The reef’s northern region lost an average of 67 percent of corals in the past 8-9 months alone.

The majority of these losses occurred in the most pristine parts of the reef frequented by tourists. In the worst affected area, a 700 km patch of reef lost over half of shallow water corals to bleaching.

Northern Portions Of Great Barrier Reef Devastated By Coral Bleaching

According to Coral COE, the region escaped minor damage during coral bleaching events in 1998 and 2002. However, this time around, the area was badly affected. Coral deaths ranged between 47-83 percent of the total coral population throughout the northern portions of the reef.

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However, all is not lost. While the northern region of the Great Barrier Reef lost over half its corals, the southern portions escaped with only minor damage. Compared to the north, the central and southern parts of the reef only suffered 6 and 1 percent average coral deaths, respectively.

Tourism Industry Thriving Despite Widespread Devastation Of Reef

This comes as good news to the Australian tourism industry, allowing it to continue bringing tourists to marvel at the reef’s beauty. Tourism in the reef currently employs over 70,000 people and brings in $5 billion dollars to the Australian economy annually.

Craig Stephen revealed that they continue to bring tourists to areas of the reef that are still in pristine condition. Stephen manages one of the Great Barrier Reef’s largest live-aboard tourist operations. He said that the patchiness of the bleaching means they can still provide world-class coral reef experience.

A recent re-survey of the reef’s northern portion revealed that some areas were sheltered from the bleaching. Upwelling of cold water from the nearby Coral Sea is seen as the reason for the area’s survival.

Scientists estimate that it will take between 10-15 years for the northern portions of the reef to regain its lost corals. Until then, careful monitoring and protective measures must be taken to save this wonder of nature. It seems that the Great Barrier Reef is not dead yet.

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