Mass bleaching reported in Great Barrier Reef caused by marine heatwave

The Great Barrier Reef.
'Above-average water temperatures led to a mass coral bleaching event late in the summer.' Photo: IANS

Canberra: Mass coral bleaching in Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef has been linked to a "marine heatwave", according to a report.

In the report, government scientists found that coral bleaching affected 91 per cent of 719 reefs assessed along the Great Barrier Reef over the summer of 2021-22, reports Xinhua news agency.

Coral bleaching is a phenomenon that occurs when coral becomes stressed due to changing conditions and expel the algae that live inside their tissue, causing the coral to become white.

Bleached coral faces a higher risk of starvation and disease.

The summer of 2021-22 marked the sixth mass bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef since 1998, four of which have occurred since 2016.

The report from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority revealed the reef's mean sea surface temperature was 0.4 degrees Celsius above average in some parts.

"Above-average water temperatures led to a mass coral bleaching event late in the summer," it said.

"Compared to previous summers, cumulative impacts were limited this summer, with one major pressure, a marine heatwave, dominating."

The bleaching occurred despite Australia experiencing a milder summer than usual due to a La Nina event.

The report noted that climate change "remains the greatest threat to the reef".

"The events that cause disturbances on the reef are becoming more frequent, leaving less time for coral recovery," it warned.

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