Coral on reefs around Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef after the worst mass bleaching event in recorded history, in 2016. Photo: Justin Marshall / University of Queensland

By Dominique Mosbergen
25 July 2016

(Huffington Post) – It’s been a wretched year for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure and one of the most complex natural ecosystems on Earth.

The area suffered the worst bleaching event ever, one that impacted over 90 percent of the reef and killed more than a third of its corals. Earlier this year, shocking photos and video revealed total devastation in parts of the reef. 

Now, entire swathes of the Great Barrier Reef are suffering from “complete ecosystem collapse,” marine researcher Justin Marshall said after spending a week conducting surveys near Lizard Island in the northern region of the reef.

“The lack of fish was the most shocking thing,” Marshall told The Guardian. “In broad terms, I was seeing a lot less than 50 percent of what was there [before the bleaching]. Some species I wasn’t seeing at all.”

Previously-common fish species in the area like the black-and-white striped humbug damselfish and green chromis had almost “completely”disappeared, said Marshall.

Driven by climate change and enhanced by a powerful El Niño, the ongoing mass bleaching event hasn’t just impacted the Great Barrier Reef, but every major reef region in the world. It’s the most widespread coral bleaching event in recorded history, according to The Guardian.

In May, Terry Hughes, convenor of Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, said this was the “third time in 18 years that the Great Barrier Reef has experienced mass bleaching due to global warming.”

The current event is “much more extreme than we’ve measured before,” he said.[more]

Swathes Of The Great Barrier Reef Suffer ‘Complete Ecosystem Collapse’

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