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El Nino to cause worst coral bleaching event in Australia
Last Updated: 2015-11-27 09:36 | Xinhua
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Australian scientists are preparing for what's predicted to be the nation's most damaging coral bleaching event in history from a combination of rising sea temperatures and this year's El Nino.

Marine scientists from across the country have gathered in Perth, Western Australia, to make plans for the monitoring and assessing of damage as quickly as possible.

El Nino weather systems have caused mass coral bleaching events around Australia, and this year's "Godzilla"is proving more a worry.

"It could be really bad, it could be one of the worst events we've seen, but it's hard to know yet," WA Department of Parks and Wildlife marine scientist Shaun Wilson told Australia's national broadcaster on Friday.

Coral bleaching occurs when stress such as heat causes the animal to expel the symbiotic algae, loosing vital nutrients and thus colour, which has lead to wide scale loss of productive habitats for fish.

"When coral is bleached, it no longer gets enough food energy and so it starts slowing down in growth and loses its fat and other energy reserves -- just like humans do during times of hardship,"Dr Verena Schoepf from the University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute said.

"The coral then becomes increasingly weak and susceptible to disease, and when bleaching is prolonged, it can die."

Researchers will be deploying in January to set up ocean monitoring stations throughout northern Australia to document how widespread, severe and the characteristics that cause the bleaching event.

Corals can recover from bleaching events, however severe events may take highly impacted reefs up to 10 years to recover, causing concern among scientists amid rising global sea temperatures.

Corals with high levels of fat or other energy reserves can withstand the impact of annual bleaching events, UWA researchers have recently found, which is critical to predicting the persistence of corals and their capacity to recover from more frequent events resulting from climate change.

Coral reefs are one of the most important and productive marine ecosystems which the world is dependent upon for tourism and fisheries sustainability.

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