The Great Barrier Reef has been seen as “too big to fail” by scientists, but researchers are questioning the reef’s longevity with concerning new findings about the coral in the reef.
According to a new study published in Nature, there is a limit to the amount of damage the reef can withstand and the coral is not doing well. Ocean heat waves in 2016 and 2017 caused mass bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef.
The bleaching resulted in the loss of many adult corals, but more concerning its effects on the formation of new coral. According to Andrew Baird, a lead author on the paper, the reef has been damaged many times, but this is the first study to show the collapse of fundamental ecosystem processes in a marine environment.
Coral can recover from bleaching events, but it takes about a decade. Since 1998 there have been 4 bleaching events, two back to back in 2016 and 2017. Current carbon emissions will continue to heat the oceans, making these events even more frequent and not allowing the coral time to recover, according to climate models from UNESCO.
The Great Barrier Reef is off the coast of Australia, covering 133,000 square miles and can be seen from outer space. However, research shows that the window to save it is closing quickly.