Banner image caption: An aerial view of bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef, taken in March 2020. Mongabay is a U.S.-based non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform. Aerial surveys of more than 1,000 individual reefs show severe levels of bleaching occurred in 2020 in all three sections of the reef – northern, central and southern – the first time this has happened since mass bleaching was first seen in 1998. While some color and vitality can return within a few weeks, it can take a decade or longer for corals to fully recover, Hughes said. Its resilience is not limitless and we need the strongest possible action on climate change.”. A coral bleaching map showing the worst affected areas in 2020 highlighted in red. But it's not all bad news.For starters, not all the reefs are equally badly damaged - just over half are 'severely bleached', which means they have bleaching of … Staghorns and table corals play a pivotal role in the marine ecosystem by providing “nooks and crannies” for fish, crustaceans and other animals, Hughes said. While 40% of the reef remained untouched, 25% experienced severe bleaching, and 35% was moderately bleached. In February the reef was subjected to its hottest sea surface temperatures since records began in 1900. We undertook extensive underwater surveys at the peak of bleaching in March and April, and again at the same sites in October and November. Scientists Are Devastated by How Much of the Great Barrier Reef Has Been Bleached "We wept." The globe has already warmed by about 1C above pre-industrial levels, caused primarily by rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. “No one climate event will kill the Great Barrier Reef, but each successive event creates more damage. Warming water temperatures, induced by climate change, are to blame for this year’s bleaching. “We have coastal bleaching this year all the way along the Great Barrier Reef — from the Torres Straits in the north to the southern boundary of the marine park near Bundaberg,” Hughes said. The north was the worst affected region in 2016, followed by the centre in 2017. Professor Terry Hughes surveying the Great Barrier in March 2020. For the first time, severe bleaching has struck all three regions of the Great Barrier Reef – the northern, central and now large parts of the southern sectors. If you value this objective and impact-driven journalism, please consider becoming a sustaining member. “But business-as-usual emissions will make the the Great Barrier Reef a pretty miserable place compared to today.”. Apr 21, 2016 Getty Images ... 2020 Stinks, Grab a New Planner for 2021. Friday 06 March 2020 15:09. It needs more help from us and it needs it urgently. “As we approach and go beyond 2C, I don’t see the tools we have today, and the tools that research and development is working on, will protect the reef. “Dealing with the climate problem is the underpinning for everything else to work.”. The southern section of the Great Barrier Reef, which stayed mostly intact during the events of 2016 and 2017, got hit very hard this year. To put these losses in context, over the 27 years from 1985 to 2012, scientists from the Australian Institute of Marin… Measures to improve the resilience of the reef include improving water quality, controlling outbreaks of coral-eating starfish, and research and development to improve the heat tolerance of corals. Image by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. “It’s very confronting to see the scale of the bleaching, and to know that you’re going to lose a lot of corals on the heavily bleached reefs,” Hughes, a professor and director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, told Mongabay. 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Scientists saw … While 40% of the reef remained untouched, 25% experienced severe bleaching, and 35% was moderately bleached. The Great Barrier Reef is currently experiencing the most widespread bleaching ever recorded, with 60 per cent of reefs across all three regions affected, according to a detailed survey of the system. Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, spent nine days in a plane surveying 1,036 reefs from the air. Every day, Mongabay reporters bring you news from nature’s frontline. In a statement to Guardian Australia, the environment minister, Sussan Ley, said: “It is deeply concerning the reef has suffered another bleaching event and our focus has to be on the ways that we can reduce the pressure on the reef and strengthen its resilience. 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