Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could continue to worsen due to seasonally warming ocean temperatures, the country’s top marine science body said Wednesday, as it fears another massive coral bleaching event this year.
Parts of the reef showed promising signs of recovery until a bleaching event in 2022 shredded the vibrant coral to a dull, sickly white.
The Australian Institute of Marine Science said the reef’s condition had stabilized in 2023 with a “relatively mild” summer, but it remained fragile.
David Wachenfeld, the institute’s research director, said the reefs are “increasingly at risk as climate change leads to more frequent and severe bleaching events”.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has warned that an El Nino weather event is likely to develop in the country in the next few weeks, raising the temperature of the Pacific Ocean and threatening coral reef bleaching.
Globally, average ocean temperatures have exceeded seasonal warmest records since April.
Mr Wachenfeld said a major disturbance would be enough to reverse the reef’s recent recovery.
Earlier this year, a United Nations panel of experts managed to remove this wonder from the list of heritage sites considered “at risk”.
In 2010, UNESCO first warned about the erosion of the reef.
Ocean heat waves caused massive coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2022.
According to researcher Mike Emslie, even the smallest amount of bleaching is enough to “stop” reef recovery.
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