Around 91% of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef suffered ‘bleaching’ due to a prolonged heat wave during the austral summer, according to a new government report released on Tuesday evening.
Of the 719 reefs surveyed, 654, or 91%, exhibit some level of coral bleaching.
This is the first time that the largest coral reef in the world has been affected by such bleaching during the La Niña climatic phenomenon, usually characterized by abnormally low water temperatures.
“Climate change is intensifying and the reef is already feeling the consequences,” warns the monitoring report, which points out that this is the fourth wave of “bleaching” to hit the reef since 2016.
Between September 2021 and March 2022, the Great Barrier Reef Maritime Authority, which published this study, carried out exhaustive surveys on this reef, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
She established that the waters started to warm up in late December and that the three main regions where the barrier is located were hit by this phenomenon, which results in discoloration due to the expulsion of the algae giving the coral its color. live.
Bleached corals remain alive and can recover if conditions improve, but “heavily bleached corals have higher mortality rates,” said the report, an early version of which was released in March.
This report was published ten days before the Australian federal elections on May 21, during which the government’s policy on climate change will be at the heart of the issues.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is sticking to his 2030 carbon neutral target despite calls for more ambition, and has pledged to export coal as long as the demand exists.
In opposition, the Labor Party is not talking about a coal phase-out either.
“Although bleaching is becoming more and more common, it is not normal and we should not accept it as a fact,” warned Lissa Schindler, an activist at the Australian Marine Conservation Society. “The two main parties must face the facts: their climate objectives are not enough for the reef”.
A movement in favor of a more proactive climate policy, Climat 200, funded by the philanthropist Simon Holmes à Court, presents around twenty candidates. Some of them could threaten incumbent Conservative MPs, such as Finance Minister Josh Frydenberg.
In June, Unesco must decide on a possible inscription of the Great Barrier Reef on the list of “in danger” sites. Australia launched a billion-dollar “Reef 2050” protection plan after the United Nations threatened in 2015 to decommission the site.