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Great Barrier Reef bleaching epidemic


The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living ecosystem with thousands of multicoloured coral reefs stretching over 2000km off the northeast coast of Australia.

Environmental groups across the world are now calling for greater action on climate change after the government declared the highest alert over an epidemic of coral bleaching in the pristine northern reaches of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

This is as a result of warmer sea temperatures which cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour.

The groups have said large sections of coral near Lizard Island were drained of all colour and fighting for survival.

“The reef can recover but we must speed up the shift to clean renewable energy and we must build reef resilience by reducing runoff pollution from farms and land clearing,” said the group’s spokesperson Richard Leck.

According to the Australian government, corals had turned white and grey in parts of the World Heritage marine park with the bleaching severe in northern areas.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s Shani Tager is calling on the Australian government to reconsider coal mining saying the burning of the fuel was “driving climate change, warming our waters and bleaching the life and colour out of our reef.”

Inspecting the area by air on Sunday, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said three quarters of the reef was experiencing “minor to moderate bleaching” describing the situation as severe.

Speaking with AFP, Jodie Rummer, a senior research fellow at James Cook University said the situation was “not good at all”.

“Certain areas are almost 100 percent bleached now; so it’s quite disturbing. And it’s quite sobering as well to think that this is the wake up call that we’re getting to take better care of our environment,” she told AFP.

She also said researchers needed more time to know the full extent of the bleaching and the damage to the reef and its marine life.