A government report says the ongoing heat wave in Australia has destroyed more than 90 per cent of the reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. “Climate change is happening and coral reefs are already feeling the effects,” said Tuesday’s report. Of the 719 reefs surveyed, 654 — or 91 percent — showed some degree of coral bleaching, the report said.
The heat wave has been going on since December. This is the first time that coral reefs have been affected by bleaching during the La Niña period when cooler temperatures are usually expected.
Although bleached corals are still alive and moderately affected sections of the reef may recover, “highly bleached corals have a higher mortality rate,” the report said. Coral bleaching is a phenomenon that occurs when coral reefs are stressed and shed the colorful algae that live within them.
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Ahead of parliamentary elections in ten days, environmentalists have called on politicians to do more to protect the climate. “Although bleaching is becoming more and more common, it is not normal and we should not tolerate it,” said Lisa Schindler of the Australian Society for the Protection of the Seas. “Both major political parties have to confront the fact that their climate goals are not enough for reefs.”
Next month, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will decide whether to classify the Great Barrier Reef as “vulnerable”. In 2015, Australia was able to avoid an imminent downgrade of the World Heritage by the government by creating a long-term action plan and investing billions in protection measures. (AFP)
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