Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is experiencing a “massive bleaching event” as corals experience heat stress from warmer seas, reef authorities said on Friday.
Aerial surveys show coral bleaching on several reefs, “confirming a massive bleaching event, the fourth since 2016,” said a report by the Reef Authority, which manages the world’s largest coral reef system.
Corals are suffering despite the cooling effects of the La Nina weather phenomenon that is now affecting Australia’s climate, authorities said.
Scientists say climate change leading to warmer waters is one of the main drivers of coral bleaching.
It occurs when a coral expels algae that live in its tissues, removing its bright color.
Even if the bleached coral is under stress, it can still recover if conditions become more moderate, the Reef Authority said.
“Weather patterns over the next few weeks continue to remain critical in determining the overall level and severity of coral bleaching throughout the Marine Park,” he said.
The massive bleaching report comes four days after the United Nations began a monitoring mission to assess whether the World Heritage site is protected from climate change.
UNESCO’s mission is to assess whether the Australian government is doing enough to address threats to the Great Barrier Reef – including climate change – before the World Heritage Committee considers listing it as “in danger” in June.
The World Heritage Committee’s decision not to list it last July came as a shock to many, given that UNESCO had recommended the listing a few weeks earlier.
When the UN previously threatened to downgrade the reef’s World Heritage listing in 2015, Australia created a “Reef 2050” plan and poured billions of dollars into protection.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)