The Great Barrier Reef (04:32)
Tourists come to the Great Barrier Reef to see its wild beauty. Coral bleaching occurs when temperatures warm just a few degrees, killing the wildlife. Coral creates a symbiotic relationship with single-cell algae. (Credits)
Coral Bleaching (03:54)
High ocean temperatures caused mass bleaching in parts of the Great Barrier Reef. In early 2016, scientists mapped the destruction and found the worst hit were along Cape York Peninsula; if the coral does not replace the expelled algae, it will slowly starve to death and infection can occur. Dr. Tracy Ainsworth compares normal healthy tissue to the bleached versions.
Worst Oceanic Heat Wave (02:49)
Since 2014, record temperatures literally cooked the coral. Scientists worry that the time between heat waves is shorter than previous years.
Finding Surviving Corals (05:22)
The Australian Institute of Marine Science has monitored the condition of the Great Barrier Reef for decades; teams of four divers explore sections of coral to determine if any regrowth has occurred. The Queensland tourism industry claims the bleaching results are false. Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston saved portions of the reef because it dropped the temperature by two degrees.
Rehabilitating Coral (03:18)
Scott Heron and Bill Leggat experiment with the abilities of coral to recover from bleaching. Temperature tanks will mimic what happened in the northern portion of the Great Barrier Reef. Climate change experts predict that temperatures will rise for the next 30 to 40 years; coral will not be able to adapt.
Studying Algae (05:35)
Professor David Suggett studies the different species of Symbiodinium present in ecosystems; some coral varieties can adapt and change the type of symbiont to a tougher species. Genetic sequencing corals from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf may help the Great Barrier Reef. At the National Sea Simulator, scientists work toward enhancing the tolerance of corals to climate change stress.
Super Corals (02:53)
Terry Hughes cautions that no one has ever successfully restored a reef and advocates prevention. The Great Barrier Reef contributes six billion dollars to the national economy. Australians will need to choose between coral and coal in the coming years.
Credits: Coral Bleaching—Catalyst (00:19)
Watch a preview of next week's episode as credits roll.
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