In Australia, around 91% of the Great Barrier Reef suffered “bleaching” due to a prolonged heat wave during the austral summer, according to a new government report released Tuesday evening. Of the 719 reefs surveyed, 654, or 91%, exhibit some level of coral bleaching. This is the first time that the largest coral reef in the world has been affected by such bleaching during the La Niña climatic phenomenon, usually characterized by abnormally low water temperatures.

“Climate change is intensifying and the reef is already feeling the consequences,” warns the monitoring report, which recalls that this is the fourth wave of “bleaching” to hit the reef since 2016. Between September 2021 and March 2022, the Great Barrier Reef Maritime Authority, which published this study, carried out exhaustive surveys on this reef, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Great Barrier Reef could be classified as an endangered site

She established that the waters began to warm in late December and that the three main regions where the barrier is located were hit by the phenomenon, which results in discoloration due to the expulsion of algae giving the coral its bright color. Bleached corals remain alive and can recover if conditions improve, but “heavily bleached corals have higher mortality rates,” says the study, an early version of which was published in March.

This report was released ten days before the Australian federal election on May 21, when government policy on climate change will be at the forefront.

In June, UNESCO must decide on the possible inscription of the Great Barrier Reef on the list of sites “in danger”. Australia launched a billion-dollar “Reef 2050” protection plan after the United Nations threatened in 2015 to decommission the site.


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