Great barrier reef bleaching worsens

CNC
Added On April 17, 2017

The Great Barrier Reef. One of the seven natural wonders of the world.

A vibrant underwater eco-system of coral and sea-life that's roughly the size of Italy.

So huge you can actually see it from space.

But scientists are sounding the alarm.

They say this sprawling underwater treasure has been bleached on a massive scale for the second year in a row.

A new study by Australia's arc center of excellence for coral reef studies shows approximately two-thirds of the reef has been affected.

 Sean Connolly/ ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies:

"A coral is a partnership between an animal-which is what builds the skeleton and constructs the reefs that you see and the tiny one celled algae or plants which live inside it. Hot temperatures cause that relationship to become toxic."

 

Sean Connolly is one of a team of scientists who have been surveying the damage.

 Sean Connolly/ ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies:

"A coral is a partnership between an animal-which is what builds the skeleton and constructs the reefs that you see and the tiny one celled algae or plants which live inside it. Hot temperatures cause that relationship to become toxic."

His team released footage of barren expanses of coral bleached bone white. In some cases it has turned a drab, lifeless brown.

Dr. Nancy Knowlton, a coral reef biologist with the Smithsonian's museum of natural history, said the coral is suffering from heat stroke.

Dr. Nancy Knowlton/ Coral Reef Biologist, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History:

"What's happening with climate change is the baseline temperature is getting warmer and warmer so any little increase in temperature caused by local weather conditions then adds on top of the global warming and then kicks off this bleaching event. So the global warming is caused by people is providing the conditions that make bleaching happen."

The Great Barrier Reef is more than just home to thousands of species of fish, birds, coral, whales and dolphins.

It's also a major tourist attraction that earns Australia 3.7 billion dollars a year.

To make matters worse, a large part of the reef that was not affected by bleaching was then damaged by the tropical cyclone Debbie last month.