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Coral bleaching, Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef. © XL Catlin Seaview Survey

Coral bleaching, Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef. © XL Catlin Seaview Survey

AIMS says Great Barrier Reef coral decline “unparalleled” in 30+ years of monitoring

11 Jul 2019

Keywords
  • climate change
  • coral
  • coral bleaching
  • crown of thorns starfish
  • ecosystem
  • great barrier reef
  • greenhouse gas emission
  • queensland
  • renewable energy

The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia today said stronger climate action is urgently needed in response to a disturbing new report on the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science’s Long-Term Monitoring Program has been surveying the Reef for more than 30 years.

AIMS report on coral reef condition for 2019 says:
The GBR has been subjected to a period of intense disturbance activity in the last five years. A fourth wave of crown-of-thorns starfish, coupled with a cluster of severe tropical cyclones and major bleaching events have caused widespread coral declines on a spatial scale which is unparalleled in the history of LTMP surveys… The predicted consequences of climate change include more powerful storms and more frequent, more intense mass coral bleaching events.

Mean coral cover in the Southern GBR region is down from 25% in 2018 to 24% in 2019, the Central GBR is down from 14% in 2018 to 12% in 2019, and in the Northern GBR it increased from the record low of 11% in 2017 to 14% in 2019.

However, AIMS said the Northern GBR finding may be an overestimate because northern inshore reefs badly bleached in 2016 could not be surveyed again because of safety concerns.

The AIMS report comes as Sir David Attenborough, speaking to the UK Parliament, said mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef is the most striking example of climate change he has ever experienced and he found it extraordinary there were still people in positions of power in Australia and the U.S. who were climate change sceptics.

WWF-Australia Head of Oceans Richard Leck said the AIMS report and Sir David’s testimony point to the urgent need for stronger climate action.

“The federal government’s own research institute says coral cover is in serious decline and the world’s most esteemed naturalist says Australia is already dealing with some of the most extreme manifestations of climate change,” Mr Leck said.

“Australia must urgently reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and rapidly speed up the transition to a renewable economy,” he said.

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