According to a new study, the Great Barrier Reef faced at least five deaths events in the past and miraculously survived. But this time researchers aren’t that sure that the reef is going to make it.
- The study is a response to the findings that two-thirds of the largest living thing on the planet died in 2016, following a nine-month-long heat wave.
- Researchers believe that that death event was triggered by the rising sea temperatures caused by global warming.
The latest study documenting the near-misses of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral was published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Researchers at the University of Sydney found that the coral has survived five near-misses over the last 30,000 years, yet this time, it may not be that successful in bouncing back. Scientists expressed “grave concerns” about the latest death event since the reef is already under a lot of stress.
Lead author Jody Webster and his fellow researchers learned more about the reef’s history by analyzing the data gathered by underwater sonars. The data revealed fossilized coral deposits across 16 sites. Researchers found geochronological records that offered a glimpse into the reef’s ability to survive major temperature-triggered catastrophic events.
The ecosystem is very sensitive when the sea level changes and temperatures shift abruptly. The past death events were triggered by natural causes, while the latest death event is likely human-caused.
Scientists estimate that the first death event occurred 30,000 years ago, while the second one came 8,000 years later when the ocean retreated and exposed large portions of the reef to air. The last death event occurred 10,000 years ago, triggered by a sea level rise.
The research team found that the reef survived all those calamities by moving laterally by up to 4.9 feet every year. But the pace is not fast enough to offset modern day’s changes.
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