Coral Bleaching Is On The Rise In The Great Barrier Reef

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Photo via Google Images

Photo via Google Images

The Great Barrier Reef needs your help more than ever before: The coral reefs in Australia are seeing an increase in coral bleaching, and major increase in coral mortality rates.

What is coral bleaching? Coral bleaching is a process that happens when warm water temperatures disrupt the health of coral plants, and cause those plants to expel the algae that lives inside the coral follicles outward into the water. When this algae is expelled from the inside the coral plant, the plant turns a stark white, causing the coral to lose it's vibrant color completely.

Coral bleaching is just a precursor for coral mortality, and can be reversed. If water temperatures return to normal states, and conditions are ripe, coral can make a full recovery—even in the most desperate areas of the reef, such as Cape York, located in northern Australia.

The Australian government has a plan to restore the health of the coral reef by 2050, and announced in this press release that they are doing all they can presently to rehabilitate the coral reef. This press release was sparked by a recent scare in the northern section of the reef where "diver teams have found the worst affected sites are near the tip of Cape York, with up to 50 percent coral mortality because of prolonged higher than average sea surface temperatures."

This increase in the coral's death rate has raised rehabilitation efforts to a level three response rate. This means that the Australian government is stepping up it's surveying, restricting dumping, culling the large population of crown-of-thorns starfish that cover the reef, and are working to improve the water quality in and around the reef.

The Australian government states that the idea behind these efforts is "to improve the Great Barrier Reef’s health and resilience so it is better able to withstand threats to its future." So far, their efforts seem to be working: "Surveys show the crown-of-thorns control program is successfully protecting coral on targeted reefs. The average coral cover on these reefs is 34 percent, and 75 percent have more than 25 percent average coral cover—well above the 10 percent critical threshold for coral recovery."

If you're looking to make a trip to the reefs before they suffer further damage, the Australian government "encourage[s] [you] to support coral recovery by abiding by zoning rules which stipulate where and how certain activities can take place, reducing marine debris, and being careful not to anchor on coral."

Diya SenGupta