Great Barrier Reef’s Bleaching Crisis Reaches ‘Severe’ Level, As Photos Reveal Widespread Coral Death

Australia is raising the alarm: Swathes of the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, are dying.

On Sunday, WWF Australia released shocking footage and photographs of bleached coral around Lizard Island, located in the northern part of the reef.

“The new video and stills are very concerning and show large sections of coral drained of all color and fighting for survival,” WWF spokesperson Richard Leck said in a statement.

Dramatic new video and pictures of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef https://t.co/YfeH5CeYM0 @WWF_Australia pic.twitter.com/CsA5BnQcGG

— Daniel Rockett (@DRock1978) March 21, 2016

Earlier in the day, Australia’s Environment Minister Greg Hunt had raised the reef’s threat level to its highest level after surveying parts of it by plane.

Bleaching in the northernmost quarter of the reef is a particular “cause for concern,” Hunt said. Experts say bleaching in that area is both widespread and severe.

“I’m witnessing the death of a very large part of this reef system. I’m extremely worried and upset,” said veteran marine researcher Justin Marshall from the northern section of the reef last week.

Soaring temperatures have been blamed for the reef’s bleaching crisis.

Russell Reichelt, chairman of the Great Barrier Reef marine park authority, told The Guardian that corals in the reef’s north, where surface sea temperatures surpassed 90 degrees in February, were “effectively bathed in warm water for months, creating heat stress that they could no longer cope with.”

“We still have many more reefs to survey to gauge the full impact of bleaching, however, unfortunately, the further north we go from Cooktown [in Queensland] the more coral mortality we’re finding,” he said.

Earlier this month, researchers at Lizard Island, located about 50 miles north of —> Read More

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