[Australia] Coral skeletons infested with algae have taken the place of once-vivid coral surrounding an island besieged by bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.
Alarming images from Lizard Island on far north Queensland’s coast show coral skeletons turned a ghastly shade of brown, a testament to the damage algae has wreaked on the natural wonder.
WWF Australia says the photos were taken last month off the granite island, which was the ‘ground zero’ of a mass bleaching event that’s killed an estimated 22 per cent of the reef’s corals.
The reef, which last year narrowly avoided being put on the World Heritage endangered list, is currently in the throes of its worst bleaching in recorded history.
About 93 per cent of the reefs along the 2,300 kilometre site have suffered bleaching, which occurs when changes in water temperatures make the coral expel algae, turning a different shade.
‘Some people see coral bleached white and think it looks pretty. But this is what follows – it’s literally an attack of the slime,’ WWF Australia spokesman Richard Leck said.
James Cook University PHD candidate Laura Richardson said many of the corals near Lizard Island were a ghastly sight when she surveyed the area in April and May.
‘So many corals were already dead with turf-algae growing over the skeletons that remain,’ she said.
‘Just a few months ago, these reefs were characterised by live, healthy, colourful corals and fish.’
The reef is currently in the throes of its worst bleaching in recorded history, with an estimated 22 per cent of the corals killed
Scientists say many of the corals near Lizard Island were a ghastly sight when she surveyed the area.
Richard Vevers, the executive director of the XL Catlin Seaview Survey which shot the photos, said the reefs normally looked stunning, although dying, at the height of bleaching.
However a few weeks after the bleaching the hard corals looked like they had been dead for years and the flesh of animals was decomposing and dripping off the reef structure, he said.
Last week the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said overall mortality of the reef was 22 per cent, with about 85 per cent of the die-off occurring on the far north between the tip of Cape York and just north of Lizard Island.
Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt said the Great Barrier Reef was still resilient with the ability to recover from major events.
It comes just weeks after references to the reef were scrapped from a UN report on climate change and World Heritage sites after objections from Canberra.
The study, jointly published Thursday by UNESCO, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the United Nations Environmental Programme, previously featured a chapter on the Great Barrier Reef.
Photo: Alarming images from Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef show the devastating impact of bleaching.
View original article at: Effect of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef after it was being besieged by algae