Coral bleaching renews concerns for Great Barrier Reef

Posted on 03 March 2016

Warming waters threaten World Heritage icon.
Reports that an island in northern Australia is experiencing the worst coral bleaching since 2002 is sparking renewed concern for the Great Barrier Reef.
Earlier this week, WWF-Australia released video and photographs of bleaching on the reef’s Lizard Island showing a wide variety of corals being impacted.

“Right now, the Great Barrier Reef is on a knife-edge,” said WWF-Australia Great Barrier Reef campaigner Louise Matthiesson. “The weather over the next few weeks will be critical. If we are lucky, storms and cloud cover could ease the short-term pressure on the coral, but if it stays hot the bleaching could worsen.”
As of earlier this week, there were reports of low-level coral bleaching from several places along the Great Barrier Reef.
According to Matthiesson, scientists predict coral bleaching will increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change. Actions that can help coral survive include speeding up the shift to clean, renewable energy.
“Coral bleaching is directly related to climate change,” said Matthiesson. “Global warming – fuelled by burning fossil fuels - is increasing the water temperature and bleaching coral reefs.”
The current El Niño weather pattern featuring warm ocean temperatures is combining with climate change to worsen conditions for the Great Barrier Reef and other reef systems around the world.
Bleaching coral reef in Lizard Island
© WWF-Australia
bleaching coral reef in northern Australia
© WWF-Australia