Two-thirds of Great Barrier Reef hit by back-to-back mass coral bleaching

Media release today from James Cook University, Townsville, widely reported in other media.

For the second time in just 12 months, scientists have recorded severe coral bleaching across huge tracts of the Great Barrier Reef after completing aerial surveys along its entire length.  In 2016, bleaching was most severe in the northern third of the Reef, while one year on, the middle third has experienced the most intense coral bleaching.

“The combined impact of this back-to-back bleaching stretches for 1,500 km (900 miles), leaving only the southern third unscathed,” says Prof. Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, who undertook the aerial surveys in both 2016 and 2017.

“The bleaching is caused by record-breaking temperatures driven by global warming. This year, 2017, we are seeing mass bleaching, even without the assistance of El Niño conditions.”

For earlier material on this issue, search our website using search term ‘reef’. More from The Conversation. On the economic value of the reef (posted 29 June 2017, includes links to related material). Update in July 2017 after UNESCO decision that the reef not to be listed as ‘in danger’ but left on ‘watch list’.

Update 4 August 2017: Mark Gibbs in The Conversation on the many aspects of the value of the Reef.

Update 1 September 2017: Jon Brodie et al in The Conversation on plans to make the Reef less polluted. Links.

10 April 2017 updated

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