An image taken by a US Geological Survey satellite shows the Great Barrier Reef is showing signs of slowing in the face of the ongoing bleaching events.
The images show a decline in the reef’s coral cover and the disappearance of many corals along the southern coastline of Australia, which are currently being affected by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
The image, taken on September 27, shows the reef has lost nearly 80 per cent of its coral cover.
The bleaching has also reduced the coral growth in the Great Australian Bight, a region along the Great South West Coast, with only around 5 per cent coral still standing.
This means the reef is now struggling to recover, said Dr David Whelan from the Queensland University of Technology.
“This is not just a loss of corals but also of reef biodiversity and the reef will be struggling to survive and recover,” he said.
“There are some reefs in the eastern and southern Queensland regions that are showing signs that they are declining, but we don’t yet know how this will affect other parts of the reef.”
The Great Barrier, along with its southern neighbour, the Great Indian Ocean, has experienced the worst El Niño on record.
It has been bleached three times in a row since mid-2017.
But it is still one of the world’s most pristine tropical ecosystems, with a wide range of marine species.
Coral reefs are home to around 2.5 million species, with around 40 per cent in the southern Great Barrier and another 30 per cent at the northern edge of the Great Basin, the western coast of Australia.
Coral is the only food source for corals, with more than half the coral reef animals being fed by other fish.
The Great Australian Coral Reef is one of Australia’s best-known marine protected areas, with the iconic Great Barrier reef in the central Queensland town of Bowen.
But the Great Northern Reef is also the world-renowned biodiversity reserve in the state of Queensland, which is home to some of the largest and most diverse coral reefs in Australia.