A new study has found higher water temperatures have ravaged the Great Barrier Reef, causing the worst coral bleaching ever recorded by scientists.
In the worst affected area 67 per cent of a 700km swath in the north of the reef lost its shallow-water corals over the past eight to nine months, the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University study found.
“Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most-pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef, ” Professor Terry Hughes said.
“This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected.”
The southern two-thirds of the reef escaped with only minor damage, which was protected from the rising sea temperatures because of cooler water from the Coral Sea, Professor Hughes said.
Scientists expect that the northern region will take at least 10 to 15 years to regain the lost corals, but are concerned a fourth bleaching event could happen sooner and interrupt the slow recovery.
(IMAGE: Jorge Láscar, Flickr)