"This recent bleaching event should convince the Federal government beyond reasonable doubt that is it time to take Australia's high levels of greenhouse gas emissions seriously," said Imogen Zethoven, WWF-Australia's Great Barrier Reef campaign manager.
WWF has released a report - Bleaching and the Barrier Reef - which explains the steps the Australian Government can take to combat the problem. The report states that there is a medium to high degree of certainty that in the next 20-50 years, the Great Barrier Reef is likely to die or be extensively damaged from mass coral mortality.
"The aerial survey has shown that this year's coral bleaching event is the worst on record for the Great Barrier Reef - as bad as or worse than the 1998 bleaching event - and it is a direct result of climate change. The message is clear: act immediately to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or we will lose the Great Barrier Reef in our lifetime."
Ms Zethoven said Queensland's Keppel Group of Islands has been very badly hit by the coral bleaching event, which happened in the first three months of this year when a large patch of hot water developed over the Great Barrier Reef, extending to the Coral Sea and up to Papua New Guinea.
Scientific monitoring revealed:
* the water was warmer than usual
* there were lower than usual salinity levels
* 25 per cent of reefs have suffered
* The 2002 coral bleaching event lasted longer than the previous bleaching event and covered a greater area.
"In 1998, there was extensive flooding and it was suggested that the bleaching could have been caused by lower than usual salinity levels. This year, it has been a very dry summer - it is beyond doubt that the cause of coral bleaching is increased sea surface temperature," she said.
Ms Zethoven said a recent aerial survey by government agencies had been conducted from the tip of Cape York Peninsula to the Capricorn/Bunkers group of reefs in the south. The survey covered 650 reefs, both inshore and offshore, and showed that 25 per cent of these reefs had suffered bleaching.
"All inshore reefs that were surveyed are in the extreme bleaching category, meaning more than 60 per cent of corals were bleached. This year's coral bleaching event has also resulted in more bleaching of offshore corals," she said.
Read the report on-line
Download Coral bleaching in the Barrier Reef in pdf format.
To find out more about coral bleaching visit www.wwf.org.au
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