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Great Barrier Reef now bleached from north to south

The Great Barrier Reef has suffered its most widespread coral bleaching event ever with all three regions of the reef system now affected.

Is it the third time coral bleaching has struck the reef system in the last five years, and the first time it has struck all three regions at the same time.

Air surveys of 1036 reefs in the past fortnight has revealed the northern, central and southern areas have been hit, James Cook University Professor Terry Hughes said.

It is the first time all parts of the reef have been bleached at the same time. (Supplied)

Elise Springett from the Australian Marine Conservation Society said the time between bleaching events is also shrinking, preventing a full recovery.

“We desperately need to see reef safe climate policies which limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5-degrees,” she said.

It comes just weeks after the highest monthly temperatures ever recorded on the reef since the Bureau of Meteorology began keeping sea surface records in 1900.

“As summers grow hotter and hotter, we no longer need an El Niño event to trigger mass bleaching at the scale of the Great Barrier Reef,” Prof. Hughes said.

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“Of the five events we have seen so far, only 1998 and 2016 occurred during El Niño conditions.”

The Great Barrier Reef is made up of 2900 separate reefs and 900 islands.

The Great Barrier Reef is facing a critical period of heat stress. (AP)

“We have already seen the first example of back-to-back bleaching—in the consecutive summers of 2016 and 2017,” Prof. Hughes added.

The number of reefs spared from bleaching is shrinking as it becomes more widespread.

Underwater surveys will be carried out later in the year to assess the extent of damage.

– Reported with AAP

Source: 9News

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