The Great Barrier Reef was never dead

It’s the comeback coral.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is “showing signs of recovery,” a new study shows, after massive bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 threatened the world’s largest living structure.

A more mild summer in 2017-18 combined with restoration efforts from scientists and government officials have helped some of the reef show “substantial signs of recovery,” according to a new report from Queensland state government.

The Great Barrier Reef stretches 1,430 miles along the Queensland coastline and is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, as well as a Unesco World Heritage site.

In 2016, bleaching damaged or destroyed 30 percent of the reef’s shallow water coral, a report published in Nature Research Journal said. The research also stressed the full impact of that event has yet to be fully assessed.

Bleaching occurs when the coral gets stressed from poor water quality and rising ocean temperatures. This stress causes it to release a tiny photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, which live inside the coral’s tissue and remove its vibrant colors. If the stress continues, the releasing zooxanthellae will eventually kill it. But if its environment returns to normal levels, the coral can reabsorb the algae and recover.

“It is important to realize that bleaching occurs in multiple stages, ranging from the equivalent of a mild sunburn to coral mortality,” Sheriden Morris, managing director of The Reef & Rainforest Research Center, said in a statement. “Saxon Reef, for example, suffered some form of bleaching on 47.1 percent of its live coral cover during the 2016 event.”

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