Warming oceans threaten more frequent bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, report says

MELBOURNE, March 21 (Reuters) – Waters off Australia are facing more frequent and severe marine heat waves that threaten the Great Barrier Reef, a report said on Monday, as a United Nations team was beginning a visit to assess whether the World Heritage site should be inscribed on the World Heritage List. “in danger”.

The reef is at risk of another massive bleaching, after three in the past six years, as sea surface temperatures off Australia’s northeast coast soared to 2-4 degrees Celsius above average, Australian environmental group Climate Council said in the report.

Last Friday, the government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said most of the marine park off the coast of Queensland state had been hit by “significant heat stress” over the summer, which in the southern hemisphere falls between the months of December and February. Read more

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Marine heat waves affect fishing, damage species and harm tourism.

“It’s getting dark and we’re getting to the point where we can’t even simulate the combination of conditions the reef is experiencing in a controlled lab to discern that,” said marine biologist Jodie Rummer of James Cook University in Queensland. .

A shoal of fish swims above a colony of staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) as it grows on the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns, Australia October 25, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

If climate change continues unabated, the reef could face bleaching events every year after 2044, the Climate Council said.

The report was released on the day UNESCO experts were due to begin a 10-day trip to Australia to meet with scientists, regulators, policymakers, local communities and indigenous leaders to assess the government’s Reef 2050 plan. .

The team’s main objective is to assess whether the plan “addresses the threats posed to the Great Barrier Reef by climate change and other factors, and whether it sets a course for accelerated action”, said said UNESCO in a statement.

The experts’ report is expected in early May and will lead to a recommendation to the World Heritage Committee – which is due to meet at the end of June – on whether the site should be classified as “in danger”.

Thanks to intense lobbying, Canberra avoided the embarrassment of an ‘at risk’ list in 2015 and last year, even as the Conservative government resisted increasing its 2030 carbon emissions target , which are considered the main cause of global warming.

The Climate Council wants Australia to reduce its carbon emissions by 75% below 2005 levels by 2030, nearly three times the government’s target.

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Reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne and James Redmayne in Sydney; Editing by Karishma Singh

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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