Coral Bleaching XXXX to XXXX ↓

  • Severe coral bleaching affected the central third of the Great Barrier Reef in early 2017 associated with unusually warm sea surface temperatures and accumulated heat stress.

    This back-to-back (2016 and 2017) mass bleaching was unprecedented and collectively affected two thirds of the Great Barrier Reef. The southern sector was spared in both years. The spatial extent and intensity of bleaching was documented through aerial surveys.

  • In 2016, record oceans temperatures have led to record widespread coral bleaching on Australian coral reefs. This bleaching is part of the ongoing third global bleaching event, declared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2015. Between February and May, the Great Barrier Reef experienced record warm sea surface temperatures. Extensive field surveys and aerial surveys found bleaching was the most widespread and severe in the Far Northern management area, between Cape York and Port Douglas. Here, bleaching intensity was ‘Severe’ (more than 60% community bleaching). Bleaching intensity decreased along a southerly gradient. While most reefs exhibited some degree of bleaching, this bleaching varied in intensity (from less than 10% to over 90% community bleaching) and was patchy throughout most of the management area. (View the GBRMPA map for more information.) The impact from this bleaching event, the most widespread and severe ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef, is still unfolding. Based on in-water monitoring surveys, overall coral mortality is (as of June 2016) at 22% for the entire Great Barrier Reef. Coral mortality is highest in the northern section. Post-bleaching reef monitoring surveys towards the end of the year will provide further clarity on the full extent of coral mortality. Coral reefs in northwestern Australia, including those near the Kimberley, Christmas Island, Scott and Seringapatam Reefs were bleached by record breaking ocean temperatures in early 2016 also. Bleaching was severe at Scott Reef and Seringapatam Reefs, and mortality was observed during bleaching surveys in April. The full extent of coral mortality on northwestern Australian reefs will be clearer following monitoring surveys towards the end of the year.
  • In the summers of 2008-2009 and 2010-2011, extreme summer seasons were associated with extremely high rainfall in Queensland. This led to flooding and the discharge of large amounts of freshwater to nearshore reefs resulting in freshwater bleaching. The Reef is likely to experience more frequent and more serious thermal and freshwater stresses in the future, given current rates of global warming due to increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Other reef systems have also suffered bleaching events. For example, mass bleaching affected reefs across 12o of latitude along the Western Australian coast in 2010–2011. This was the first recorded coral bleaching for several sites, including Ningaloo reef.
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