An epidemic of coral bleaching is effecting the world?s largest coral reef: the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. An extensive survey of the Great Barrier Reef carried out over the last month has revealed "widespread bleaching", says Terry Done, chief conservation scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. This is happening here for second time in four years and is also spreading through the coral islands of the South Pacific.
Coral bleaching occurs when high sea temperatures force the algae that give coral its red color out of the coral polyps. Usually, bleached coral recovers in the next cool season, but if all the algae are lost, the coral will die and the reefs will crumble.
Thomas Goreau, president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance in Chappaqua, New York, and an adviser to the UN Environment Program says he has received reports about bleached, dead coral across much of the South Pacific, including Tahiti, the Cook Islands, New Caledonia and Fiji. "It will take a long time before we have full confirmation of the magnitude of the disaster," he says. "But when it is all in, I predict we will have confirmation that almost all corals across the entire South Pacific have died in the last few months."
The coral bleaching follows record sea temperatures since the beginning of the year. "Almost all the Great Barrier Reef was 2
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