Half of the corals in the Australian Great Barrier Reef have died in the past 25 years. The sad news was revealed in a study published on the 14th of October by the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, according to which climate change is irreversibly destroying this unique marine ecosystem, a natural habitat to many species.
Starting from mid-1990s, in fact, the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia began registering a decline in all types of coral. The initial consequences of ocean warming were initially seen on branch corals, to the point that some have completely disappeared from the north of the area, which became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1981.
A phenomenon called bleaching, caused by the water’s temperature being too high, is killing coral. Between 2016 and 2017 the Great Barrier Reef suffered from two unprecedented episodes. Previously, two more cases of severe bleaching were registered in 1998 and in 2002. A fifth one was observed this year, and is still awaiting a damage assessment.
“The Great Barrier Reef is the refuge of a large number of fish and other sea creatures”, James Cook University professor Terry Hughes, among the authors of the study, told AFP news agency. “Losing corals will lead to profound changes for the entire ecosystem”, and for the Australian economy too: it is estimated that coral-related activities greatly benefit the tourism sector with revenues of four billion dollars a year.