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Study: Great Barrier Reef suffering due to global warming

ltos/iStock/Thinkstock(SYDNEY) -- Warmer than normal seawater is contributing to the death of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, researchers say.

An article published in the journal Nature shows that hundreds of miles of the reef has been killed. The lead author writes that he "didn't expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years."

The BBC reports that the bleaching, or loss of algae, was worse in 2016 than in any other year on record.

The National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, a group of scientists and reef managers, is expected to examine the extent of the damage in the coming weeks.

The Great Barrier Reef was given World Heritage status nearly 40 years ago. The United Nations calls it the "most biodiverse" of all such sites, and says the reef is of "enormous scientific and intrinsic importance."

"We're hoping that the next 2-3 years will cool off quickly and this year's bleaching won't be anything like last year," lead author Professor Terry Hughes said.

The study also noted that protecting reefs from fishing and improving water quality is helpful, it didn't minimize the amount of bleaching caused by 2016's heatwave and global warming.

"It broke my heart to see so many corals dying on northern reefs," Hughes added. "With rising temperatures due to global warming, it's only a matter of time before we see more of these events."

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