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Study: In 2016, the Great Barrier Reef experienced worst coral die-off on record

Higher water temperatures led to the worst coral bleaching event on record in the Great Barrier Reef, a new study finds.

The Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University discovered that 67 percent of a 435-mile section in the northern part of the reef lost its shallow-water corals over the past eight to nine months, The Guardian reports. During two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, the area had just minor damage, Prof. Terry Hughes said. There was some damage in the southern two-thirds of the reef, too, but that area was not as affected by rising sea temperatures because of cooler water in the Coral Sea.

Scientists say it will likely take 10 to 15 years for the northern reef region to regain lost corals, but they are worried the recovery could be sidelined by a fourth bleaching event. To combat climate change, the former head of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is calling for a ban on new coal mines in Australia.