News / Science & Technology

    Great Barrier Reef Sees ‘Worst Mass Bleaching Event’

    Bleached coral is seen in this photo from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. (Terry Hughes)
    Bleached coral is seen in this photo from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. (Terry Hughes)

    Related Articles

    Explorer: Use Outdoor Clues to Navigate, Predict Weather

    In new book, Tristan Gooley says with no compass, no map you can still find your way home using nature's tools: sun, wind and trees

    Astronomers Discover Tall Mountain on Saturn Moon Titan

    Peak, which was studied using data from NASA’s Cassini probe, stands some 3,337 meters high and is one of trio of mountains NASA calls Mithrim Montes

    USGS Revises Seismic Risk Map to Include Quakes Caused by Humans

    In the US, Oklahoma is at the greatest risk for hazards associated with induced seismicity, followed by Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arkansas
    VOA News

    The Great Barrier Reef, which runs along the northeastern coast of Australia and is three quarters the size of California, is facing what is being described as the “worst mass bleaching event in its history.”

    Using aerial surveys of more than 500 reefs stretching north of Cairns, the researchers said the majority of the reefs ranked in the most severe bleaching category.

    “This has been the saddest research trip of my life,” said Terry Hughes, convenor of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce. “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. We flew for 4,000 kilometers in the most pristine parts of the Great Barrier Reef and saw only four reefs that had no bleaching. The severity is much greater than in earlier bleaching events in 2002 or 1998.”

    Bleaching happens when, for example, sea temperatures rise, according to the National Coral Bleaching Task Force. The higher temperatures cause the coral to “expel” colorful photosynthetic algae, and as a result, the coral turns white. The process could be reversed if the water temperature falls, allowing the algae to recolonize the coral.

    If this does not occur, the coral could ultimately die.

    “Scientists in the water are already reporting up to 50 percent mortality of bleached corals,” said Hughes, “but it’s still too early to tell just what the overall outcome will be. We will continue to conduct underwater surveys along the Great Barrier Reef in the coming months as the full impact of this mass bleaching event unfolds.”

    Hughes added that most of the severe bleaching was in the northern part of the reef, saying the southern part “dodged a bullet” thanks to “cloudy weather that cooled the water temperatures.”

    Hughes said the bleaching was likely made worse by the strong El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean.

    According to The Washington Post, there have been three observed mass bleaching events - in 1998, 2010 and this year. All three correspond to El Niño.

    The Great Barrier Reef is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site with more than 400 species of coral and 1,500 kinds of fish. It is the only reef designated a Heritage site.

    Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park calls it the largest living structure on the planet.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    by: Craig Quirolo from: Florida
    March 29, 2016 4:33 PM
    Corals are one of the oldest and slowest growing animals on the planet. They are the barometers of the health of our oceans indicating that our future is in deep trouble. Rather than taking action when mass bleaching events occurred in the 1990s mankind ignored the warning. Our planet is alive and it is speaking to us. If you have ears listen.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora