Experts from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority spent six hours yesterday flying over the Reef between Townsville and Cairns, alongside researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
In an alarming development, another mass bleaching event on the the Great Barrier Reef has been confirmed due to widespread damages caused by warmer ocean temperatures. Mildly bleached coral can recover if the temperature drops.
Numerous big tourist sites were spared the worst of the bleaching or recovered quickly, but this year the heat stress is closer to Cairns and other popular sites, as Fairfax Media reported earlier this month.
He said not all bleached coral would die, and previous year revealed bleaching and mortality could be highly variable across the vast marine park, a World Heritage Site which covers an area larger than Italy.
The back-to-back bleaching is also an indication that the coral is losing its ability to recover from extreme heat, Neal Cantin from the Australian Institute of Marine Science said in the release.
"There's enough bleaching there to tell us that it is a significant heat-stress event", Russell Reichelt, the authority's chairman, said on Saturday. This year's reports are fairly unsurprising - we've basically been experiencing the same continuous global coral reef bleaching event since 2014, Mark Eakin, Coordinator of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch program explained to Gizmodo.
The 2016 bleaching was more severe in the northern areas of the bio-diverse site.
The Great Barrier Reef at 134,400 sq miles is the biggest coral reef in the world.
On March 10, he stated that this represented the first occurrence when scientists witnessed "back-to-back summers".
If waters stay too warm for too long, corals expel the zooxanthellae algae living in their tissues that provide as much as 90 per cent of the energy they need to grow and reproduce.
The reef scientists plan to conduct further surveys over the next few weeks to determine the extent and severity of the bleaching.
"Mass coral mortality is fast becoming a humanitarian and economic concern, and will soon be elevated to a crisis if reefs die alongside densely-populated coastlines and islands". "The scary part is that 2017 is not an El Nino year - and the period between these bleaching events is getting shorter, too short for recovery". "In many areas, people are causing declines in coral reefs because of pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction", he said.
"There's an imminent risk of another severe bleaching event", she said.