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Great Barrier Reef: Coral bleaching 'simply catastrophic'

Great Barrier Reef: Coral bleaching 'simply catastrophic'

Scientists have warned of catastrophic coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia. New underwater images show the scale of the disaster, according to the Climate Council, a local climate protection organization.

A 1,100 kilometer stretch from Lizard Island to the Keppel Islands has already been affected, AAP news agency reported on Tuesday. According to experts, the trigger is a recent ocean heat wave in the region.

“Heron Island has been fortunate to have been spared many bleaching events in recent years, but what appears now is simply devastating,” said Diana Klein, project manager for local organization Coral Watch. The researcher has been visiting the island about 460 kilometers north of Brisbane in the affected area for 25 years.

With water temperatures up to 30 degrees, 80 percent of coral reefs are bleached in some places. She looked at the four-meter-wide coral that had grown over thousands of years—now completely pale and white. Given the situation, the Climate Council warned that authorities may soon announce another mass bleaching event.

As early as 2016, scientists warned of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.

November 29, 2016 | 01:03 minutes

The Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder that can even be seen from space. It is increasingly at risk as oceans warm as a result of climate change. In harsh conditions, corals reject the algae that give them their color, otherwise they live together in a community for mutual benefit.

Bleached corals are very stressed, but they are still alive and can recover. According to experts, extremely warm sea water exposes them to diseases that can kill them.

If the water doesn't cool in the coming weeks, it's only a matter of time before the bleached cnidarians die, Klein said.