A study led by Prof Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, revealed that an alarming 30% of the Great Barrier Reef’s corals got wiped off in the fatal marine heatwave of 2016 that lasted for around nine months.
The extent and severity of the coral die-off recorded in the Great Barrier Reef surprised even the researchers. Hughes said that the 2016 heatwave had been far more harmful than historical bleaching events, where an estimated 5% to 10% of corals died.
“When corals bleach from a heatwave, they can either survive and regain their color slowly as the temperature drops, or they can die,” Hughes said. “Averaged across the whole Great Barrier Reef, we lost 30% of the corals in the nine-month period between March and November 2016.”