By Matt Bewig, CNN, Mar. 27, 2018 The Great Barrier Reef is in danger of drying out, and scientists are warning about the threat to other coral reefs.
What’s the latest?
The Great Barrier’s corals are under severe stress as the temperature is rising, with the surface temperature rising by more than four degrees Fahrenheit over the past 10 years, according to the World Conservation Union.
The average depth of the reef has decreased from 925 meters (2,700 feet) in the 1950s to just over 600 meters (1,900 feet) today, the WWF says.
The corals have also seen severe water stress, as the water level in the estuary has increased by 1.4 meters (5 feet) per year, the UN said.
That has caused the coral to lose a huge amount of its ability to regenerate, said Michael Macdonald, a marine ecologist with the Australian National University.
In addition to the loss of corals, the water also has increased the risk of other kinds of coral death, such as coral bleaching, according the WWF.
Scientists at the National University of Singapore said that there is an increasing risk of coral bleached at higher elevations, where the water is higher.
In a study published in the journal Coral Reefs, Macdonald and colleagues found that when coral bleaches were present in areas of the Great Barrier reef, the coral was in danger because the reef could not maintain the same water pressure as it would at lower elevations.
They also found that the bleaching events in higher elevators were more severe and more likely to have been caused by the ocean-water interaction, according a statement from the university.
“We know that warmer water increases temperature, and warmer water can also release nutrients into the reef, so if that warmer, more acidic water is released, then there is a greater risk of bleaching and corals dying,” said Macdonald.
“What we are seeing is the coral bleachers, where corals die due to poor water quality, are also increasing,” said Chris Beech, director of the Centre for Coral Reef Studies at the Australian Museum.
“If we don’t do anything about it, there will be bleaching in the Great White,” he said.
Beech said that a growing body of research shows that water pressure can have a major effect on coral health.
“In a lot of places around the world, there’s an increase in the amount of water that’s available to a coral and that has a knock-on effect on the health of the coral,” he told CNN.
“In a warmer ocean, the corals will be able to use more water and they will be healthier, so that means that they are healthier.”
Beech also said that it’s not only the coral that are at risk.
“There are a number of other species that are affected by water pressure, which include corals in the shallow-water zone, which can get a lot more stressed,” he explained.
The Great Barrier is the second largest coral reef in the world after the Great Coral Reef in the Solomon Islands.
The reef covers about 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles), or about the size of Texas.