The back-to-back bleaching events and "extraordinary rapidity" of climate change have pushed Australia's Great Barrier Reef to a point of no return. Experts claimed that the largest reef system in the world has been damaged beyond repair and can no longer be saved.
In the recent Reef 2050 Plan Independent Expert Panel conducted in Brisbane, experts voice out their concern about the seriousness of the damage taken by the reef and concluded that the severe bleaching event in 2016 has fundamentally changed the reef system.
"We're very concerned about what this means for the Great Barrier Reef itself and what it means for the communities and industries that depend on it," said Russell Reichelt, chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), in a report from Daily Mail. "The amount of coral that died from bleaching in 2016 is up from our original estimates and, at this stage, although reports are still being finalised, it's expected we'll also see an overall further coral cover decline by the end of 2017"
In 2016, about 95 percent of the areas surveyed in the Great Barrier Reef were severely damage by the bleaching event. Additionally, initial aerial and in-water surveys revealed that about 22 percent of the coral reefs in the shallow waters were destroyed in 2016. The number of damaged shallow water corals bumped up in this year's bleaching event, rising to 29 percent of the area surveyed.
Normally, corals are very resilient and can bounce back after a bleaching event. However, the back-to-back bleaching event and rising ocean temperatures in the Great Barrier Reef are making it extremely difficult for the corals to recover.
Aside from coral bleaching events caused by warmer ocean temperature, the Great Barrier Reef also faces other major challenges including poor water quality from land-based run-off, impacts from coastal development and some fishing impacts such as illegal fishing.
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