Mural in Sydney that highlights the acute situation for the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Flickr.com / JAM Project CC BY-SA
Death of corals on the Great Barrier Reef
Increasingly frequent marine heatwaves can lead to the almost instant death of corals, scientists working on the Great Barrier Reef have found. These episodes of unusually high water temperatures are – like heatwaves on land – associated with climate change. Scientists studying corals after a heat event discovered that extreme temperature rises damaged reefs much more rapidly than previously thought. They published their findings in the journal Current Biology. During the high-temperature event that the team studied, which occurred on the Great Barrier Reef between 2016 and 2017, there was an estimated loss of a third to half of the corals. “If you imagine losing 30–50 per cent of the trees in England over the course of two years, it would be quite astounding,” said Dr James Guest from Newcastle University in the UK.