The Straits Times
Published on Oct 02, 2012

Great Barrier Reef coral halved in 27 years: Study


SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral cover in the past 27 years due to storms, poisonous starfish and bleaching linked to climate change, a study found on Tuesday.

The research by scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS) and the University of Wollongong warned that coral cover on the heritage-listed reef - the world's largest - could halve again by 2022 if trends continued.

Intense tropical cyclones were responsible for much of the damage, accounting for 48 per cent, with outbreaks of the coral-feeding crown-of-thorns starfish linked to 42 per cent.

Two severe coral bleaching events in 1998 and 2002 due to ocean warming also had "major detrimental impacts" on the central and northern parts of the reef, the study found, putting the impact at 10 per cent.