Global Warming and the Mass Bleaching of Corals

Co-presented with the Sydney Environment Institute and Greenpeace Australia Pacific

31 March, 2017

What is the future of the Great Barrier Reef in the face of climate-induced coral bleaching?

One of the reef’s most distinguished analysts, Professor Terry Hughes will discuss the key findings of his recent study of recurrent coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, a major study about to appear in the scientific journal, Nature.

In 2015-2016, record temperatures triggered a pan-tropical episode of coral bleaching, the third global-scale event since mass bleaching was first documented in the 1980s. Using aerial and underwater surveys combined with satellite-derived sea surface temperatures, Terry Hughes has documented the nature and severity of recurrent major bleaching events around Australia. He has also examined water quality, crown of thorns starfish damage, and fishing pressure that has exercised significant additional pressures on such bleaching outbreaks. He will discuss likely outcomes for the long-term survival of the Reef should the present patterns of recurrent bleaching continue or intensify in the future.

Professor Hughes will be joined by panel of others working on the Great Barrier Reef to answer your questions on what can be done to slow or prevent the present alarming rates of coral ‘die off’ associated with severe and/or recurrent coral bleaching.


  • Professor Terry Hughes is the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. Terry has broad research interests in ecology, marine biology and the social-ecological dynamics of coral reefs. Terry was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2001 in recognition of “a career which has significantly advanced the world’s store of scientific knowledge.” In December 2016 he was recognized by Nature magazine as one of the 'Ten people who mattered this year'.
  • David Ritter is the Chief Executive Officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. He has been with Greenpeace for nine years, campaigning to secure an earth capable of nurturing life in all its amazing diversity. He is an affiliate of both the Sydney Environment Institute and the Sydney Democracy Network at the University of Sydney.
  • Professor Maria Byrne is the Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Sydney. She an expert in the biology and ecology of marine invertebrates. She has investigated ecologically important species such as the crown of thorns starfish, the sea cucumbers that comprise the tropical beche-de-mer fishery, and foraminifera as key calcifying species, and the change in coral reef habitat following bleaching.
  • Professor Iain McCalman is currently a Research Professor of History at the University of Sydney, and Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute. He is the author of The Reef - A Passionate History. The Great Barrier Reef from Captain Cook to Climate Change (2014)