Great Barrier Reef Loses Over Half Its Corals In 25 Years

Katie Ramirez
October 14, 2020

One of the natural world's greatest wonders, the Great Barrier Reef off the eastern coast of Australia, has lost over half of its corals in the past 25 years a new study has announced.

Marine scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Queensland are in charge of the study.

Coral bleaching is triggered by rising ocean temperatures caused primarily by climate change. "Our results show the ability of the Great Barrier Reef to recover is compromised compared to the past, because there are fewer babies, and fewer large breeding adults".

The researchers are now appealing for more studies that will gather better data on the demographics of corals on the Great Barrier Reef.

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"A vibrant coral population has millions of small, baby corals, as well as many large ones- the big mamas who produce most of the larvae", Dr. Andy Dietzel, lead author and a researcher from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoralCoE) said in a press release.

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.

Dr Dietzel says a major implication of coral size is its effect on survival and breeding.

Global heating kills half the corals on the Great Barrier Reef

The world's largest reef system - a 2,300km Unesco World Heritage site that is home to hundreds of species of corals - has suffered three mass bleaching events over the past five years.

The decline isn't just hurting the reef, with lost branching and table-shaped corals leaving less habitat for fish and other inhabitants.

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

Climate change also increases the frequency of reef disturbances, such as marine heatwaves, and we must lower greenhouse gas emissions now to try and save the Great Barrier Reef.

Dr Dietzel continued: "If we want to understand how coral populations are changing and whether or not they can recover between disturbances, we need more detailed demographic data: on recruitment, on reproduction and on colony size structure".

Declines were observed in both shallow and deep water and were especially pronounced along the reef's northern and central regions.

When it comes to the Great Barrier Reef, climate change is wiping out everything indiscriminately.

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