The ongoing heatwave in Australia has damaged more than 90 percent of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral, according to a government report. “Climate change is happening and the reef is already feeling the effects,” Tuesday’s report said. Of the 719 reefs surveyed, 654 — or 91 percent — exhibited some degree of coral bleaching, the report said.

The heat wave has been going on since December. It is the first time the reef has been affected by bleaching during a La Niña weather period when cooler temperatures are normally expected.

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Although bleached corals are still alive and moderately affected sections of reef may be recovering, “heavily bleached corals have a higher mortality rate,” the report said. Coral bleaching is a phenomenon that occurs when corals are stressed and shed the colorful algae that live within them.

Before the parliamentary elections in ten days, environmentalists called on politicians to do more for climate protection. “Although bleaching is becoming more common, it’s not normal and we shouldn’t put up with it,” said Lissa Schindler of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. “Both major political parties have to face the fact that their climate targets are not sufficient for the reef.”


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