The Great Barrier Reef is suffering the biggest mass coral bleaching on record, with all three sections of its 1,500 mile length affected, scientists said.
“We were really shocked. No scientist expected to see three severe bleaching events in just five years,” Terry Hughes, head of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, said.
Bleaching occurs when overheated corals expel algae known as zooxanthellae, which provide much of their energy and vibrant colour. Bleached corals turn white and may die.
More than 1,500 species of fish, about 10 per cent of the world’s total, inhabit the reef and many rely on the corals. The reef, which is made up of 2,900 separate reefs and 900 islands, spans 133,000 square miles off Queensland,