Australia’s Great Barrier Reef hit by ‘worst’ bleaching

Canberra, March 29 (IANS) Evidence that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its worst coral bleaching on record has renewed calls for the United Nations to list it as “in-danger”, media reported.

Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Taskforce said 95 percent of reefs from Cairns to Papua New Guinea are now severely bleached, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

It said that only four reefs out of 520 have no evidence of bleaching.

UNESCO voted not to put the reef on its “World Heritage in Danger” list last year, but green groups want the decision re-assessed.

Experts said that it is too early to tell whether the corals will recover, but scientists “in the water” are already reporting up to 50 percent mortality of bleached corals.

Climate change and the effects of El Nino are being blamed for the rise in sea temperatures that causes coral bleaching.

“What we’re seeing now is unequivocally to do with climate change,” professor Justin Martin from the University of Queensland was quoted as saying.

“(At) the Paris climate change meeting, essentially the whole world has agreed this is climate change, and we’re seeing climate change play out across our reefs,” Martin said.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) spokesperson Nick Heath told BBC that the un-spoiled section of the reef had acted as a vital bank of genetic material to reseed areas further to the south.

“We have been working to save the reef in (recent) years, and we always took for granted that we had the bank in the northern quarter that was safe, and seemed resilient in previous bleaching episodes, but now it’s cooked to an inch of its life,” Heath said.

The Australia is planning to invest a projected $2 billion over the next decade to protect the reef, the report said.

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