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In this Friday Nov. 25, 2016, photo Australian senator Pauline Hanson listens to marine scientist Alison Jones, left, as she displays a piece of coral on the Great Barrier Reef off Great Keppel Island, Queensland, Australia. (Dan Peled, AAP Image via AP)

A record amount of coral died on the Great Barrier Reef this year due to climate change


More coral has died in Australia's Great Barrier Reef than any other year on record, scientists announced on Tuesday.

Some regions lost two-thirds of its coral in the past nine months. The northern part of the reef was affected the most. The southern regions, including major tourist regions, lost as little as 1 percent of their coral. 

The reef was declared "dead" by Outside Magazine in October, but no scientist has formally declared this, and many argue calling the reef "dead' hinders attempts to restore it.

A record amount of coral died on the Great Barrier Reef this year due to climate change

WATCH  | Here's a look at the reef as it stands.

Why is the reef dying?

The reason for the dying coral, scientists say, is climate change. Warmer oceans have caused "coral bleaching," a phenomenon caused by algae necessary for survival abandoning coral. Coral can survive bleaching, but it is much more vulnerable, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The effects of the current El Niño -- a temporary rise in surface water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator -- did not help matters.

The proportion of reefs that were severely affected was much, much higher.
Andrew Baird, researcher

The governments of Australia and Queensland plan to spend about $1.5 billion over the next decade on improving the reef's health. The reef survived past mass bleachings, but the 2016 bleachings will take at least 10 to 15 years to heal.

Conservationists hope to reverse a recent UNESCO World Heritage decision that the reef was not in danger.

Environmental organizations lamented what they saw as a lacking government response.

This graphic breaks down the spread of coral bleaching.

NASA has launched a mission, dubbed CORAL, to survey the damages.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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