Heartbroken Scientist Declares the Great Barrier Reef Is NOW 'Fatal'
'We have given up'
After a record- hot the most recent surveys reveal that two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef have now been damaged by intense coral bleaching – less than 12 months after 93 percent of it experienced bleaching in 2016. This season, the damage has spread farther south.
Researchers estimate that it might take so much as the fastest growing coral in regards to a decade to recover - but that might need a year or two without any bleaching to provide the corals a chance to regrow.
Bleached corals aren't always dead corals, but in the acute central area, we anticipate elevated rates of coral loss," said among the researchers, James Kerry from James Cook University's ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
"It takes at least a decade for a full retrieval of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016."
Coral bleaching occurs when water temperatures get so warm that corals stress out and eject the beautiful, vivacious, symbiotic algae that live in their tissue, supplying them food and color in exchange to get a property.
Without that algae, the coral begins to starve, leaving them vulnerable to destruction and turns bone white.
You'll be able to see what that looks like in footage from the most recent aerial survey below (warning: this made us need to cry):
The only favorable news from the reef survey of this years is the fact that it was the central third of the reef – rather compared to delicate northern third – that was worst affected in 2013. And also the southern third seems to be unscathed.
Still, James Cook University water quality expert, Jon Brodie, who wasn't involved in the study, told Christopher Knaus and Nick Evershed over at The Guardian that the reef was now in a "final stage."
"We have given up," said Brodie, referring to inaction on the section of the Australian government. "It's been my life managing water quality, we have failed."
"I showed the outcomes of aerial surveys of bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef to my pupils, and then we wept," lead researcher Terry Hughes, tweeted after last year's results.
In the latest study, Hughes and his team conducted aerial surveys across more than 8,000 km (5,000 miles), covering nearly 800 person coral reefs.
You can start to see the devastation this year compared to last year (right) in the maps below, with all the damage this year dispersing 500 km (311 miles) further south:
Things are specifically bad this year because coupled together with the 2017 mass bleaching event, Tropical Cyclone Debbie also strike a section of the Great Barrier Reef in March, causing damage along a path up to an estimated 100 kilometers (62 miles) broad – "which sadly struck a section of the reef that had largely escaped the worst of the bleaching," a press release explains.
While the cooler water was brought by the cyclone, the team clarified the benefits of this were minimal about the damage it caused.
It is simple to despair the truth that the majority of our kids will no more get the opportunity to see the Great Barrier Reef with their very own eyes.
But perhaps it is better to focus on that which we can do to protect the residual sections of the reef, and prevent this from happening to other coral reefs round the world.
"Clearly the reef is fighting with multiple impacts," explains Hughes.
"Without a doubt, the most pressing of those is global warming. As temperatures continue to climb the corals will experience more and more of these occasions: 1°C of heating so far has already caused four occasions in the previous 19 years."
"Ultimately, we must cut carbon emissions, and also the window to do so is rapidly closing," he added.
The world, if you are waiting for a wake-up call, this is it.
The results of the most recent survey are not yet been published, but the 2016 bleaching event was reported in the journal Nature.