The report surveyed a total of 719 reefs from a low-flying aircraft during the 2021-2022 Australian summer season and found that 654 reefs, 91%, “showed some bleaching”.
“Surveys confirm a mass bleaching event, with coral bleaching observed on multiple reefs in all regions. This is the fourth mass bleaching event since 2016 and the sixth to occur on the Great Barrier Reef since 1998,” he said. the Australian Government Great Barrier Reef Navy. the Park Authority said in its findings.
The waters of the Great Barrier Reef began to warm up in December 2021 and exceeded “record summer highs”. It was hit by three separate heat waves during the summer through early April 2022, which increased “heat stress” in the central and northern areas of the reef, according to the report.
The stressed coral expels algae from its tissue, depriving it of a food source. If conditions don’t improve, the coral can starve and turn white as its carbonate skeleton is exposed.
“So we’re really missing that window of recovery. We’re having back-to-back bleaching events, back-to-back heat waves. And the corals just aren’t adapting to these new conditions,” he said.
The report warned that the climate crisis remains the biggest threat to the reef and that “reef-disturbing events are becoming more frequent.”
Scientists say time is running out for reefs to recover and governments must urgently address the root cause: the climate crisis.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s national treasures, stretching some 1,400 miles (2,300 km) off the Queensland coast and drawing some three million tourists a year before the pandemic.
The Australian government has faced prolonged pressure from UNESCO to show it is doing enough to save the reef and has been criticized by global climate experts, among others, for not doing enough to steer Australia away from the fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The report’s release comes after leading scientists called on the agency to release its findings ahead of the May 21 federal election.