Has this years coral bleaching event been the worst bleaching ever recorded? Or perhaps just the most reported bleaching ever? The jury is out as to the true impact of this years major event on the Great Barrier Reef, with authority now claiming bleaching data from earlier this year had been misinterpreted.
In a statement released Friday, Russell Reichelt chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), said “we’ve opted to release results ahead of final completion of surveys because of widespread misinterpretation of how much of the Reef has died”, claiming that information in the media had been misinterpreted.
“We’ve seen headlines stating that 93 per cent of the Reef is practically dead. We’ve also seen reports that 35 per cent, or even 50 per cent, of the entire Reef is now gone. “However, based on our combined results so far, the overall mortality is 22 per cent — and about 85 per cent of that die-off has occurred in the far north, between the tip of Cape York and just north of Lizard Island, 250 kilometres north of Cairns.”
The true impact of this summer’s major event is now emerging, and the GBRMPA says it plans to compile information from all scientific monitoring groups, into a single picture in the coming months. “Another round of surveys is scheduled for August to October to assess survivorship, before a final assessment is published.”
Preliminary finding from the GBRMPA and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) shows approximately three quarters of the coral has survived to date, with the norther third of the Reef being hardest hit. “We’re aware of the intense interest that people all around the world have in the health and future of this natural wonder; for this reason, we’ve sought to provide the public with the facts in a bid to clear up misinterpretations that may have arisen.”
Dr. Reichelt said that in some cases, bleaching has been confused with mortality, purely through a misunderstanding as to what bleaching entails. Coral bleaching is heartbreaking, but corals CAN recover.