The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most beautiful ecosystems in the world, as it contains an impressive number of corals and marine creatures that call it home.
A new study elaborated by a team of researchers argues that up to 50% of the coral population of the Great Barrier Reef has been killed by constant bleaching events that are caused by a warmer ocean. Australian researchers have been studying coral populations for more than three decades.
Two massive bleaching events took place back-to-back in recent years, affecting corals who lived in shallow and deep water. While all coral species were affected, branching and coral-shaped corals were the most vulnerable. An increase in the global temperature triggered mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, according to one of the researchers who contributed to the study.
Select areas of the northern section of the reef have been hit particularly hard, as the presence of colonies has dropped by up to 98%. In an interesting twist, a 25% increase was observed on the southern slope.
The experts expect that the decline will continue in the long run. There is only one solution to the issue, which is a global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Another increase in the global temperatures could lead to new large-scale bleaching events, putting the entire reef in danger.
While corals are known for their impressive resilience, they cannot withstand large-scale bleaching events. Some have managed to evolve some form of resistance to the warming water, but most remain vulnerable, and recovery rates are quite slow in comparison to the amount of damage that is caused.
Other studies focused on the Great Barrier Reef note that up to 90% of the corals could be lost in less than 30 years. Researchers from two Australian solutions are working on a possible solution that would mitigate the damage.