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Study Finds High Temperatures Killing Large Parts Of Great Barrier Reef

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Next we have news of the way that warming oceans are affecting coral reefs. It's not good news.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Warmer waters stress the coral, sapping it of color and sometimes killing it.

MIA HOOGENBOOM: It's confronting to go from a picture of a reef which is colorful, which is swarming with life, to a reef that's covered in dead corals and corals that are covered in a slimy, green algae.

INSKEEP: Mia Hoogenboom talked with us via Skype about a study she co-authored on the bleaching of reefs off Australia.

HOOGENBOOM: So it doesn't feel like the same reef. And it doesn't engender that same sense of wonder at the biodiversity that's present in those areas.

INSKEEP: Hoogenboom was part of a team that went diving to look at the reefs.

MARTIN: They found huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef dead. In the northern third of the reef, the vast majority of the coral was bleached or dead.

INSKEEP: It's a disaster for wildlife and for tourism and part of what the paper calls a global-scale event.

HOOGENBOOM: We know from our results in the current paper that we can predict which reef's bleached the worst based mostly on temperature of the water at that time.

MARTIN: And with warming oceans because of climate change, things aren't looking good for reefs. Some scientists guessed that the reefs would gain resilience to warmer water.

HOOGENBOOM: But actually, we didn't find any evidence of that at all. So past exposure to bleaching didn't mean that reefs were less likely to bleach in 2016.

INSKEEP: That's what Mia Hoogenboom saw while exploring the Great Barrier Reef. That study is out today in the journal Nature.

(SOUNDBITE OF VUREZ' "GLORIOUS CRYSTAL GLEAM MMX2 - CRYSTAL SNAIL STAGE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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