People, Environment

Third of Great Barrier Reef Dead or Dying, Raising Alarms

Third of Great Barrier Reef Dead or Dying, Raising AlarmsThird of Great Barrier Reef Dead or Dying, Raising Alarms

At least 35% of corals in the northern and central parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have been destroyed by bleaching, Australian scientists say.

The experts from James Cook University (JCU) say it is the most extreme case of mass bleaching they have ever measured at the World Heritage Site, BBC reported.

Bleaching occurs when warmer water causes coral to weaken and lose the colorful algae that provide oxygen and nutrients. It has been linked to climate change.

“We found on average, that 35% of the corals are now dead or dying on 84 reefs that we surveyed along the northern and central sections of the Great Barrier Reef,” Professor Terry Hughes, the head of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at JCU, said in a statement.

“This year is the third time in 18 years that the Great Barrier Reef has experienced mass bleaching due to global warming, and the current event is much more extreme than we’ve measured before.

“We’re rapidly running out of time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The scientists warned that the recovery of coral cover is expected to take a decade or longer, but it would take much longer to regain the largest and oldest corals that have died.

Their study was released after months of intensive aerial and underwater surveys.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society urged officials to heed calls to do more to save the reef.

“The federal government must release a climate policy that makes a credible contribution to delivering a healthy future for our natural wonder,” said spokeswoman Imogen Zethoven.

“The alternative is we risk losing the reef, the $4.3 billion tourism industry and the 69,000 jobs that rely on it.”