According to a statement made late last month by the Australian Research Council, the northern part of the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem is experiencing and intense bleaching that could even be considered the worst mass bleaching event in its history. However, others say the incident is not as big as it has been reported.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) covers 348,000 square kilometers, which makes it larger than the U.K., Switzerland, and the Netherlands combined. The National Coral Bleaching Taskforce (NCBT) have been conducting a series of air surveys where they have observed approximately 4,000 kilometers of coral reef. According to NCBT, the majority of space surveil is undergoing extensive and severe bleaching.
“Seventy-five percent of corals north of Cairns are snow white. Almost without exception, every reef we flew across showed consistently high levels of bleaching, from the reef slope right up onto the top of the reef. The saddest research trip of my life.” Terry Hughes of the NCBT said about the survey.
Hughes said that approximately 74 reefs between Cairns and Townsville bleached between 25 to 30% on average.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was recognized as a World Heritage Area in 1981. It contains 400 types of coral and hosts 1,500 types of fish and 4,000 mollusk species, as well as other marine life such as large green turtles and dugongs commonly known as sea cows.
Queensland Tourism Body said there are just a few isolated incidents
Even though Hughes and team said most of the north part is suffering from severe bleaching, other reports seem the deferred. For instance, Queensland Tourism Body suggests the damage is less than reported. Alex de Wall, chief executive officer at Tourism Tropical North Queensland, said that Cairns and Port Douglas, areas where boat tours frequent the most, are perfectly fine. He added that operators have indeed reported staghorn coral bleaching in the areas they operate, but just a few isolated incidents.
Researchers from the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) and other organizations are currently examining the reef in order to get a better look at the real extent of the bleaching. Again, the reports shared so far indicates that the damage is not as severe as reported by NCBT.
Col McKenzie, AMPTO’s executive director said that in the last two weeks AMPTO has already conducted more than 100 Reef Health Indicator Surveys (RHIS) on reefs off Cairns that show a bleaching average of less than 5%.
Mckenzie pointed that the current bleaching event is very concerning but more data is needed before making any emotional reaction.
Source: Discovery News