Climate change is taking a terrible toll on the Great Barrier Reef, with half of the coral in the northern part of the reef now dead after two heat waves, scientists have warned.
If global temperatures keep rising, the ecosystems of the reef may completely collapse, researchers warned in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
A marine heat wave in 2016 caused catastrophic ‘bleaching’ on the reef – followed by the coral dying off.
It was followed by another heat wave in 2017.
Bleaching happens when algae that lives in the coral is expelled due to stress caused by extreme and sustained changes in temperatures, turning the coral white.
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The coral is then at risk of dying if conditions do not return to normal.
Study author Mark Eakin said, ‘We’ve seen half of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef killed by climate change in just two years.’
Professor Terry Hughes, director of the coral-reef center at James Cook University in Australia said, ‘We lost 30 percent of the corals in the nine-month period between March and November 2016.
‘If we fail to curb climate change, and global temperatures rise far above 2 °C, we will lose the benefits they provide to hundreds of millions of people.’