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Researchers Map Out Damage of the Worst Coral Bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef Ever Recorded

Nov 29, 2016 04:10 AM EST
Great Barrier Reef
More than half of corals in northern Great Barrier Reef dead due to the 2016 bleaching event.
(Photo : Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Months after what is considered to be the worst bleaching event of the Great Barrier Reef to be recorded, researchers from Australian Research Council (ARC) Coral Reef Studies finally have the clear picture of the damage.

According to the report from Washington Post, the northern part of the reef that is considered to be the most pristine suffered the most damage in the last bleaching event. About 67 percent of the shallow-water corals in the 700 kilometers (435 miles) of the northern area have died in the past eight to nine months.

"Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most-pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef," explained Professor Terry Hughes, Director of ARC's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, in a press release. This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected."

The Far North part of the reef might have fared better than the northern part. However, the damage is still alarming at 26 percent mortality rate. On the other hand, the central and southern part of the reef only experienced a small loss, with about six percent and one percent of their corals dead.

The 2016 bleaching event is not the first coral die-off in the history. The mass death of corals in the Great Barrier Reef also occurred 1998 and 2002. It might take about 10 to 15 years without another bleaching event for the reef to be fully recovered. However, researchers warned that a fourth and fifth bleaching event may happen during the recovery period of the reef.

After the bleaching event, corals in the northern part still have a difficult time recovering due to the disruption in the balance of predation. Despite having more than half of its coral dead, the number of predators feasting in them did not decrease. This just makes the recovery of the northern part to be more difficult and lengthy.

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