Australia declares ‘mass bleaching’ on the Great Barrier Reef | world news
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is experiencing a “massive bleaching event” as coral experiences heat stress from warmer seas, reef authorities said on Friday.
An aerial survey showed coral bleaching on several reefs, “confirming a massive bleaching event, the fourth since 2016”, according to a report from the Reef Authority, which manages the world’s largest coral reef system.
The coral suffered despite the cooling effect of the La Nina weather phenomenon that is currently influencing Australia’s climate, the authority said.
Scientists say climate change resulting in warmer waters is one of the main drivers of coral bleaching.
It occurs when corals expel algae living in their tissues, draining them of their vibrant colors.
Although bleached corals are under stress, they can still recover if conditions become more moderate, the Reefs Authority said.
“Weather conditions over the next two weeks remain critical in determining the overall extent and severity of coral bleaching in the marine park,” he said.
The mass laundering report was released four days after the United Nations began a monitoring mission to assess whether the World Heritage site is protected from climate change.
UNESCO’s mission is to assess whether the Australian government is doing enough to address threats to the Great Barrier Reef, including climate change, before the World Heritage Committee considers listing it as “endangered” in June.
The World Heritage Committee’s decision not to inscribe it as such last July came as a surprise to many, given that UNESCO had recommended inscription a few weeks earlier.
When the UN previously threatened to downgrade the reef’s World Heritage List in 2015, Australia created a “Reef 2050” plan and poured billions of dollars into protection.