Bleaching Event of the Great Barrier Reef
Warmer water temperatures can result in coral bleaching. When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae zooxanthellae living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. This is called coral bleaching.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s most iconic natural features, and has been a harrowing representation of the effects of climate change on the country’s ecosystems. The Reef is currently undergoing the largest bleaching event ever recorded, with some reports showing damage to the system at upwards of 90%. The full environmental effects of this can’t be fully known, as such a large and complex ecosystem plays an important role in biodiversity and oceanic conditions. Additionally, there is a cultural loss for Australians and the potential for a decrease in tourism if Reef degradation continues.
The government has formulated a plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the Reef 2050 Plan, which outlines measures that can be taken through 2050 to protect the Reef. The government has outlined 151 actions that can be taken to protect the Reef in the first five years of implementing the plan, and has stated that it is on track with 89% of those actions.
Additionally, heatwaves and wildfires have been increasing both in frequency and intensity. The human impact of these climatic changes has been felt across the country as people endure extended periods of extreme heat that have already characterized 2017.
The government has put out statements on these events, and acknowledged the many extreme and unusual weather events that took place over the course of 2016. The Australia State of the Environment 2016 Overview was recently released and covers trends and changes from 2011-2016. This report outlines where there has been success in management and environmental policies, as well as areas that have seen increased environmental degradation.
The full report can be found here: https://soe.environment.gov.au/