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Is This the End? Damage to the Great Barrier Reef Reaches New Extreme, Becoming Irreversible

Apr 17, 2017 09:31 AM EDT
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Scientists from the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies revealed that the amount of damage suffered by Australia's Great Barrier Reef from the back-to-back coral bleaching event in previous months already reached new extreme, and is becoming more and more irreversible.

With just a few months in between the two coral bleaching events, Great Barrier Reef, the largest reef system in the world, now has a difficult time going back to its former glory.

So far, the back-to-back coral bleaching events have already damaged a 900-mile stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. The 2017 coral bleaching event might still be on its early stages. Due to this, researchers are worried that the coral reef system could suffer irreversible damage and can even die.

"It takes at least a decade for a full recovery 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," said James Kerry, a scientists at ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, in a report from Salon.

The researchers noted that a one- or two-degree increase above the average temperature for up to three or four weeks is enough to make the corals suffer.

Coral bleaching has been long linked with global warming. When the temperature in the reef drops, algae have the chance to recolonize the corals. However, consistently high temperatures could not only force the algae out, but can also permanently kill the corals.

"When it's so hot for this extended period of time the corals don't just bleach, they cook and they die very quickly," noted Kerry, as per Fox 6 Now. "My expectation is that has happened, based on what I saw from the air and what I saw last year."

The Great Barrier Reef is home to around 400 types of corals and 1,500 species of fish. It is considered to be the largest living structure on Earth and directly affects the livelihood of about 275 million people globally.

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