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The Great Barrier Reef Has Become A Coral Graveyard | The Huffington Post

The Great Barrier Reef Has Become A Coral Graveyard | The Huffington Post EDITION US عربي (Arabi) Australia Brasil Canada Deutschland España France Ελλάδα (Greece) India Italia 日本 (Japan) 한국 (Korea) Maghreb México Québec (En Francais) United Kingdom United States INFORM • INSPIRE • ENTERTAIN • EMPOWER NEWS WorldPost Highline Science Education Weird News Business TestKitchen Tech College Media POLITICS Pollster Election Results Eat the Press HuffPost Hill Candidate Confessional So That Happened ENTERTAINMENT Sports Comedy Celebrity Books Entertainment TV Arts + Culture WELLNESS Healthy Living Travel Style Taste Home Weddings Divorce Sleep GPS for the Soul WHAT'S WORKING Impact Green Good News Global Health VOICES Black Voices Latino Voices Women Fifty Religion Queer Voices Parents Teen College VIDEO ALL SECTIONS Arts + Culture Black Voices Books Business Candidate Confessional Celebrity College Comedy Crime Divorce Dolce Vita Eat the Press Education Election Results Entertainment Fifty Good News Green Healthy Living Highline Home Horoscopes HuffPost Data HuffPost Hill Impact Latino Voices Media Outspeak Parents Politics Pollster Queer Voices Religion Science Small Business So That Happened Sports Style Taste Tech Teen TestKitchen Travel TV Weddings Weird News Women WorldPost FEATURED GPS for the Soul Hawaii OWN Dr. Phil Quiet Revolution Talk to Me Don't Stress the Mess Endeavor Fearless Dreamers Generation Now Inspiration Generation Paving the Way The Power Of Humanity Sleep + Wellness What's Working: Purpose + Profit What's Working: Small Businesses GREEN The Great Barrier Reef Has Become A Coral Graveyard If you thought the reef would come out unscathed, you were wrong. 10/26/2016 05:17 am ET 4.7k Nick Visser Reporter, The Huffington Post Credit: Greg Torda/ARC Centre for Excellence Dead corals still provide habitat to fish but will soon crumble away. Yonge reef (Lizard Island region), October 2016. Scientists studying the aftermath of one of the worst coral bleaching events in history along the Great Barrier Reef have returned with some bad, albeit expected news: Much of that ecosystem is now dead. A team of researchers from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies went back to check up on a swath of reefs that lie along the entire stretch of the Great Barrier, which saw some areas up to 95 percent bleached earlier this year. In total, 83 reefs were surveyed in March, many of which were profoundly impacted by a period of prolonged heat that turned once colorful coral formations ghostly white. Scientist anticipated mass casualties . And those predictions have come to fruition, according to Gergely Torda, a researcher with the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce that recently revisited many of those sites. “Basically we have seen the better [healthier] part of the reef so far,” said Torda, midway through a secondary survey of those initial reefs. “But it confirms what our predictions were for the portion of the reef that would eventually die.” Credit: Greg Torda/ARC Centre for Excellence A giant clam, once surrounded by colorful, living coral, now sits alone in a field of death near Lizard Island. October, 2016. Bleached corals, named for when they turn bright white, aren’t actually dead. But the color change happens in times of stress , usually when water temperatures become too warm and force the vivid algae that lives inside corals to leave. Corals can recover, but if temperatures are too warm for too long, the structures can die. Torda’s team, led by Professor Terry Hughes , has only seen about 50 of the initial 83 reefs at this stage, mostly in the healthier and only somewhat-bleached regions near the lower and middle sectors of the Great Barrier. But mortality is high enough that eventual forays into what was once the most pristine sector of the reef ― the 400-mile stretch alongside the northernmost part of Australia ― will most likely reflect dire results. Reefs around Lizard Island, an epicenter of coral research off Far North Queensland, have “pretty much no coral left,” Torda said. “In March, we measured a lot of heavily bleached branching corals that were still alive, but we didn’t see many survivors this week,” said Andrew Hoey, a Taskforce researcher working on the island, in a press release. “A lot of the survivors are in poor shape.”  Credit: Tane Sinclair-Taylor/ARC Centre for Excellence Rib Reef, near Townsville, Australia, survived the worst of the bleaching. Although the full scale of death won’t be known until November, none of the horror is unexpected. Researchers have warned the ongoing effects of climate change could continue to wallop sensitive coral ecosystems with increased frequency, and severity. Some describe the Great Barrier as a marathoner trying to heal itself from an injury, but repeated races could prove too much in the coming decades. However, despite the urgent need for action, scientist have warned against writing an obituary for the reef too soon. Hug