The Great Barrier Reef is now at a 'terminal stage'

Great Barrier Reef.
(Image credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is experiencing a second devastating coral bleaching event on the heels of an unprecedented bleaching in 2016, leaving the reef with little chance of surviving, CNN reports. The reef is now in a "terminal stage," water quality expert Jon Brodie told The Guardian.

Bleaching occurs when seawater warms up and the algae that normally grows inside coral is expelled, turning it white. Algae serves as the energy source for reefs, so if the temperatures remain high and a reef does not have a chance to recover, it effectively dies, eliminating a unique habitat for many marine animals.

“I don't think the Great Barrier Reef will ever again be as great as it used to be — at least not in our lifetimes," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's C. Mark Eakin told The New York Times in a March report.

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Before the bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, there had only been two other similar incidents in the known history of the Great Barrier Reef, in 1998 and 2002. This time, a survey shows that two-thirds of the reef is affected. "You've got to be optimistic. I think we have to be," said Jon Day of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. "But every moment we waste, and every dollar we waste, isn't helping the issue. We've been denying it for so long, and now we're starting to accept it."

Others do not share Day's hope. "We've given up. It's been my life managing water quality, we've failed," Brodie said. "Even though we've spent a lot of money, we've had no success." Jeva Lange

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.