Recent findings reveal that about 60 percent of all coral reefs across the world, including the Great Barrier Reef, were affected by the bleaching event and other human-related activities.
This phenomenon began two years ago and took its toll on about 90 percent of the Great Barrier Reef. Scientists regard this bleaching event as the most widespread and longest one ever recorded.
Still, experts underline that coral reefs can still be saved through many conservational initiatives. According to the researchers from the Smithsonian Institute, the Great Barrier Reef is the most diverse marine ecosystem, because it is home to countless species of mammals, fish, and other creatures.
If corals reefs die, most of these species won’t be able to adapt to such a change, and will most likely die. Reefs are very sensitive to any temperature changes, and that is why the bleaching event had such a massive impact on those ecosystems.
They consist of layer buildup made of the calcium skeleton of coral polyps. However, it takes a long time for reefs to develop. During the bleaching event, the oceans warmed by just two degrees, but for the coral reefs it was too much.
Scientists underline that the leading cause that led to this phenomenon consists of greenhouse gas emissions which increase the water acidity. Also, human excess had a massive impact on those reefs due to fishing methods, boat anchors, and dynamite.
According to Mark Eakin, Coral Reef Watch Coordinator for the NOAA, the bleaching event is influenced by how people tackle climate change. In other words, if greenhouse emissions are reduced corals will most likely recover.
Although 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by bleaching, scientists believe that this large ecosystem can be saved if many organizations join their forces to address this issue.
Experts think that one reliable solution would be to develop stress-tolerant coral reefs that will be resilient to sudden changes in the water temperatures. Coral biologists are currently trying to find a way to breed these corals and to develop millions of coral larvae which will be spread to all damaged areas.
However, they stress that this project is just in the first phase and if this method pays off, it will take time for the Great Barrier Reef to fully recover.
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