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According to a new study which the journal Nature has recently published, it seems that the Great Barrier Reef has been forever altered by global warming. After that long-lasting undersea heat wave affected very large portions of the Great Barrier Reef about two years ago, it might have forever changed its structure. This happened because such a large number of corals died. According to Terry Hughes, the leader of the study, what happened is an unprecedented natural selection event.
The study states that only in 2016, about 30% of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef disappeared. Moreover, one year later, in 2017, another 20% of the reef was lost. According to the researchers, certain species suffered more than others. This is mostly the reason why the ecological identity of the reef has probably changed forever. It’s interesting that the elaborate corals which provide fish habitat are now being replaced by some dome-shaped corals. The bigger problem is that normally, it takes about 10 years for the corals to recover. This is why the changes are probably irreversible, which is a very bad thing.
The Great Barrier Reef is forever changed
However, it should be understood that this might not mean the end of the Great Barrier Reef as we know it. Actually, its southern regions escaped mostly unscathed and the bleaching events from 2016 and 2017 did not affect them too much. The idea is that the reef might now probably change its ecological state. The corals will no longer be that diverse but will be indeed more resilient.
Global warming causes an event known as bleaching which happens because of the very warm temperatures of the ocean waters. During this phenomenon, tiny algae called zooxanthellae are leaving the corals behind, causing them to become ghostly white. They no longer have the amazing bright colors that people know, which is indeed a pity.
Image source: wikimedia