Flyish Fish Cove before coral bleaching. This photo shows the water ringing Christmas Island before the coral bleaching event of 2016. Photo: Curtin Aquatic Laboratory

Flying Fish Cove after coral bleaching in 2016. The white patches indicate coral bleaching in the shallow waters off Christmas Island. Photo: Curtin Aquatic Laboratory

By Anthony Stewart
6 May 2016

(ABC News) – Between 70 and 90 per cent of coral in the shallow water around Christmas Island are bleached due to rising ocean temperatures, researchers say.

Over the past month, sea temperature around the island has jumped from the usually 28 degrees to above 31 degrees.

It has pushed corals to expel the algae that give these organisms their vivid colour, and today much of the reef has been bleached stark white.

The event is part of the same rise in ocean temperatures that has caused widespread coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.

Jean Paul Hobbs and a team of divers from the Curtin Aquatic Laboratory have been assessing the scale of bleaching.

"This is about as bad as it gets bleaching-wise," he said.

Christmas Island is formed around on a former volcano, and reefs extend all around its fringe.

Dr Hobbs has been surveying the island's reefs as part of a national effort to determine the impact of this bleaching event.

"The coral extends down 60 to 70 metres and there is bleaching all the way down to those depths," he said.

"It indicates what we are seeing is a widespread event, rather than the patchy event they had in the past." [more]

Rising sea temperatures cause massive coral bleaching off Christmas Island, researchers say

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