Scientists: Great Barrier Reef in peril

Posted at 6:38 PM, Apr 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-20 18:38:40-04

Disturbing news about the state of the world's largest living ecosystem.

Australian scientists have revealed that 93% of the great barrier reef has been affected by coral bleaching, putting this natural wonder on the brink of extinction.

Scientists took video in the past two months to map out the extent and severity of bleaching along the full 1,429-mile length of the reef.

They found just 7% escaped bleaching entirely.  That's only *68* out of more than 900 individual reefs.

Bleaching happens when the water warms and leads the coral to expel the algae that lives inside of it, turning it white.

Bleached coral can recover if the temperature drops and the algae are able to re-colonize.

But if temperatures don't drop, the coral won't be able to recover and it will die.

The reason this is happening is partly caused by last year's strong El Niño, but some scientists say the real cause is global warming.

As for the state of our local reefs, if you remember last year, south Florida and the Bahamas experienced a big bleaching event. In some cases, nearly 50% of coral colonies were affected - mainly in Broward, Miami-Dade and the Keys.

This year, we'll have to see what the summer holds for our reef system, which is the only major reef tract in the continental United States.