The ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies released results of an expansive aerial survey of the Great Barrier Reef this Sunday. As Kerry explained, those areas of damage overlap somewhat so "some of the reefs now, in the central and northern section, have had a double dose of severe bleaching for two years in a row".
"Under good conditions, it takes a reef about a decade to recover", said Wiedenmann, "provided that there are no further problems such as low-water-quality issues, repeated heating events and that there are enough corals left to seed the depleted reefs".
Lead researcher Terry Hughes showed the results of the aerial surveys to his students and wept at the devastating mass bleaching that has occurred over the past two years.
Unless temperature drops, massive global warming is affecting us and other living organisms equally, with some suffering more damage than others.
The Great Barrier Reef has experienced bleaching last year and this year due to warmer waters, so cooler water might do the trick.
The World Heritage site has suffered a second bleaching event in 12 months, triggered by unseasonably warm waters, ARC added.
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"That's why the Australian government has launched an unprecedented effort to invest more than A$2 billion ($1.5 billion)... in a Reef 2050 plan, which we're 18 months into", he said.
While the 2016 bleaching was part of a "global event associated with the 2015-2016 El Nino", this year has more to do with a "very mild winter and [summer] heatwaves" on the east coast of Australia, Hughes said.
It is the fourth time coral bleaching - where stressed corals expel the algae that live in their tissue and provide them with food - has hit the reef after previous events in 1998 and 2002.
Scientists are warning that the window of opportunity to save the Great Barrier Reef is "closing quite rapidly". According to scientists, the back-to-back severe bleaching events will give damaged coral little time to recover.
Australia's tourism industry is highly dependent on the Great Barrier Reef, which generates annual income of about $5 billion and employs almost 70,000 people, according to ARC. But if temperatures remain high, eventually the coral will die, removing the natural habitat for many species of marine life. Hughes was part of the survey team in the last two years.
The back-to-back bleaching events, and the increased spread south of the damage now leaves only the southern third of the reef untouched, and while bleached coral doesn't necessarily mean the coral is dead, the dual impact of these losses decreases the reef's natural ability to fix itself.