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Devastating: Scientists say the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its worst coral bleaching event on record

Coral bleaching on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef appears to be far worse than originally thought, according to one of the world’s leading coral reef scientists.

The Reef’s most pristine northern section now has been 95% bleached, according to a survey undertaken by Professor Terry Hughes. Professor Hughes has said that huge levels of bleaching have occurred in the top 1,000 kilometers of the World Heritage-listed Reef.

“This will change the Great Barrier Reef forever,” Professor Hughes told the ABC. “It's too early to tell precisely how many of the bleached coral will die, but judging from the extreme level even the most robust corals are snow white, I'd expect to see about half of those corals die in the coming month or so.”

“Imagine the public outcry if the Amazon rainforest turned snow white because of climate change. That’s essentially what we are seeing on the Great Barrier Reef,” said World Wildlife Fund Senior Scientist Gabby Ahmadia. “It’s just that it’s taking place underwater.”

“Widespread bleaching events like this one are an ominous reminder that the effects of climate change are already here,” Ahmadia added. “When you lose large parts of the foundation of the reef ecosystem, you’re bound to see biological repercussions across a huge swath of the local aquatic community.”

“We call on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to travel to the Great Barrier Reef, so he can see for himself why his government needs to show real leadership on climate change,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman. “The Prime Minister cannot allow his Government to continue its complacency on climate change, or on action to protect the Reef from pollution.”

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