Bad news for the turts, sea-cucumbers, octopi and other wondrous sea creatures. Our big, beautiful Great Barrier Reef is facing another coral bleaching event.
Tell me again that we don’t need climate action now.
There were fears that the Reef could be about to undergo another mass bleaching event back in January. Scientists can’t make a call just yet about exactly how bad the bleaching is.
But the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority (GBRMPA) has confirmed that there’s widespread bleaching across the Reef.
GBRMPA says that bleaching ranges from “minor” to “severe”. Great!
And this all going down right before the UN rocks up to inspect the Great Barrier Reef. The whole reason the UN’s visiting is to decide whether the Reef’s World Heritage status is going to get downgraded.
Why would it get downgraded you ask? Well, because it’s been so badly damaged by global warming!
The UN’s delegates are arriving on Sunday March 18 to assess the reef’s status.
A spokesperson for Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley told the ABC that any bleaching is a “concern”.
“It is why we are investing an additional $1 billion in the reef, to strengthen its resilience in the face of these challenges.
“This is the best-managed reef in the world and as a result of our collaborations with scientists, reef managers, traditional owners, farmers and local communities it is also the most closely monitored.”
While scientists are still working out just how bad the damage is, they’ve recorded some coral deaths. Scientists can’t confirmed if it’s a mass bleaching event just yet because they haven’t finished assessing all the data.
Cruise day 12: Spent our #RRAP #globalsearch collection dive photographing very bleached corals at this site on Chicken Reef. The effects of global heating are real and impacting corals right now. We need action on climate change to give our reefs the future they deserve. pic.twitter.com/pMLpEntm3m
— Line K Bay (@LineKBay) March 10, 2022
But chief scientist for GBRMPA Professor David Wachenfeld said the situation on the reef was “concerning”.
“There certainly is a risk that we are seeing a mass bleaching event,” he told the ABC.
It’s also really quite worrying that this is happening during Ms La Niña. While we may hate her for all the rain, La Niña summers are usually cooler which is nice for the coral.
As Professor Terry Hughes pointed out on Twitter, corals don’t usually bleach during La Niña.
Corals on the #GreatBarrierReef are not supposed to bleach in cooler La Nina summers.
2022 is a first, thanks to anthropogenic heating.
It’s been a mere 24 years since the first 1998 mass bleaching occurred during an El Nino heatwave.https://t.co/k2ZnTR7n1f
— Terry Hughes (@ProfTerryHughes) March 17, 2022
The Great Barrier Reef has already undergone five mass bleaching events in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020.
— Terry Hughes (@ProfTerryHughes) March 18, 2022
According to The Guardian, bleaching events are determined based on how many corals in an individual reef are bleached.
If up to 10 per cent are bleached that’s considered minor. Moderate bleaching is up 30 per cent, up to 60 per cent is major bleaching and over 60 is severe.
One of the core reasons why coral reefs get bleached is global warming.
“Coral bleaching is directly attributable to climate change caused by rising global emissions,” said WWF for Nature Australia’s Richard Leck as per 9News.
“Reducing Australia’s domestic and exported emissions fast, this decade, is the main solution within our control.”
So if we want to end the bleaching, we have to tackle global warming first. Maybe it’s time to start writing to those pollies.