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Australia’s Other Great Reef Wiped Out by Super-Warm Seas

Climate

Another of Australia's treasured coastal ecosystems, the kelp-dominated Great Southern Reef, experienced a massive die-off from 2010-2013 due to a marine heat wave.

Before and after the 2011 heat wave which saw the virtual extinction of some of Western Australia's vast temperate kelp forest ecosystems.J. Costa

According to a study in the journal Science, 90 percent of the kelp forests that make up the northwestern portion of the reef disappeared over the three-year period and were replaced by seaweed turfs, corals and coral fish usually found in tropical and subtropical waters.

The Great Southern Reef (GSR) straddles five states across the southern coastline of the Australian continent. Kelp forests (middle) are a defining feature of the GSR.T. Wernberg

The Great Southern Reef is a system of rocky reefs covered by kelp forests that supports most of Australia's fisheries and is worth about $10 billion to the Australian economy. The authors of the study state that another big heat wave could prove extremely disastrous for the reef and will have environmental and economic consequences.

For a deeper dive: Atlantic, Guardian, Washington Post

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