Great Barrier Reef at risk of total bleaching

The Great Barrier Reef is on the verge of a potential seventh mass bleaching event

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Great Barrier Reef at risk of total bleaching
© Mark Kolbe / Staff Getty Images News

Coral bleaching occurs when the water remains unusually warm for several weeks and is reversible if the phenomenon is not widespread and the water temperature drops, but scientists report that it can make corals more susceptible to disease and affect the their ability to reproduce.

And this is the drama that is taking place in the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia. An ecosystem that is already under serious threat due to global warming and water pollution.

The Great Barrier Reef is on the verge of a potential seventh mass bleaching event, according to WWF Australia's oceans spokesperson, Richard Leck.

"The thermal stress caused by this underwater heat wave, which continues to accumulate across the southern region of the ocean, is a cause for concern and raises fears of another widespread bleaching event," he explained.

Scientists said the highest anomalies are found in the central region near the coast and the lowest anomalies are found in the northern region near the coast. The latest findings from the Reef Authority indicate that thermal stress continues to accumulate and that throughout the Marine Park and the sea surface temperature is 0-2 °C higher than average, therefore falling within the risk range.

Great Barrier Reef at risk of total bleaching

Australia's Great Barrier Reef Management Authority has launched an aerial survey of the ecosystem, which extends 2,300km off the continent's northeast coast, after helicopter surveys confirmed extensive coral bleaching across the southern section of the largest coral system in the world.

Helicopters observed extensive and fairly uniform bleaching across all regions of the reef, across a distance of more than 1,100 km, the authority reports. And environmentalists fear a seventh mass bleaching is unfolding, after those that occurred between 1998 and 2022.

“Aerial surveys are an ideal tool to assess the spatial extent of bleaching, but it is necessary to go underwater to understand the severity of bleaching and to what depth it extends. We were able to observe bleached corals even at depth,” said scientist Neal Cantin from Australian Marine Science Institute.

A real ecological drama.