Research

Climate change wipes out half of Great Barrier Reef

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The Great Barrier Reef has lost half its corals within 3 decades

A new study has found that climate change is causing the vibrant corals which once made up Australia's Great Barrier Reef to die so quickly that more than 50 per cent have died over the last 25 years.

A team of researchers supervised by Dr. Andy Dietzel, from the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoralCoE), released a statement saying that there are many studies on the changes in the structure of populations of humans, but not enough about coral populations.

One of the natural wonders of the world is disappearing faster than scientists predicted as climate change has caused bleaching to occur. "Our results show the ability of the Great Barrier Reef to recover - its resilience - is compromised compared to the past, because there are fewer babies, and fewer large breeding adults".

The southern part of the reef was also exposed to record-breaking temperatures and severe bleaching in early 2020 (this data was not included in the study).

In August 2019, the government agency that manages Australia's Great Barrier Reef downgraded its outlook for the corals' condition from "poor" to "very poor" due to warming oceans.

These types of coral are large and make good homes for fish and other marine life.

The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef, covers almost 133,000 square miles and is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 species of hard corals and dozens of other species.

We measured changes in colony sizes because population studies are important for understanding demography and the corals' capacity to breed.

"We used to think that the Great Barrier Reef is protected by its enormous size - but our results show that even the largest and relatively well-protected coral reef system in the world is increasingly threatened and in decline", Hughes said.

Coral aren't the only animals suffering from warming seas along the reef.

"There is no time to lose - we must sharply decrease greenhouse gas emissions ASAP", the authors said.

Mass bleaching was first seen on the reef in 1998 - at the time, the hottest year on record - but as temperatures continue to soar its frequency has increased, making it harder for the reef to recover from each incident.

Researchers looking at coral populations over 30 years starting in 1995 found there was decline in both shallow and deeper water, and across different species. Even with its huge size, the supposed resilience of the Great Barrier Reef has no match when it comes to climate change.

Research carried out by the University of Queensland said the loss of certain corals means that populations of inhabitants such as fish are reduced as well as sea food productivity.

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