Recovery of Great Barrier Reef delayed by climate change

The Great Barrier Reef.
Great Barrier Reef. Photo: IANS

Canberra: Rising temperatures in Australia due to climate change has delayed the recovery of Great Barrier Reef corals by 89 per cent, according to a scientific study published on Thursday.

The largest coral reef in the world, which extends over 2,300 km and can be seen from space, suffered devastating effects of coral bleaching for two consecutive years in 2016 and 2017, Efe news reported.

"The number of new corals settling on the Great Barrier Reef declined by 89 per cent following the unprecedented loss of adult corals from global warming in 2016 and 2017," said Terry Hughes, lead author of the study published in Nature magazine.

"Dead corals don't make babies," added Hughes, also director of the Center for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University (JCU), in a statement by his institution, referring to the Great Barrier Reef.

The study analysed the survival rate of corals in the Great Barrier after the two mass bleaching events and how many corals were born to re-populate the reef during 2018.

The loss of adult corals resulted in a collapse in repopulation capacity, compared to the levels measured in previous years and before the bleaching phenomena.

"The number of coral larvae that are produced each year, and where they travel to before settling on a reef, are vital components of the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. Our study shows that reef resilience is now severely compromised," the study's co-author Andrew Baird said.

The Great Barrier Reef, home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of molluscs, annually contributes about $4.56 billion to the economies of Australia and the state of Queensland, where it is located.

The world's largest coral reef began to deteriorate in the 1990's due to the double impact of seawater warming and increased acidity due to the greater presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.