(Image via Vox)

About two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef’s 430-mile northern stretch is now dead in the worst coral die-off ever recorded. As warming waters encroach on the reef, they bleach and weaken the coral, leading to its death. The lower reaches of the reef were only saved from damage due to a cyclone that reduced water temperatures by up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The northern area of the Great Barrier Reef has long been known as the section least impacted by humans. However, with warming waters as a result of human activities on the planet, the northern stretch of the reef continues to die off at catastrophic rates. Even though the Queensland government has expressed promises to protect the reef, they are still going forward to develop the country’s biggest coal mine, which will like 200 miles inland from the Galilee Basin. The government cannot open up a new coal mine and still think that the reefs will not be put in danger, as coal burning is one of the largest causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Even so, not all hope is lost. In some parts of the reef, the coral still has a chance to recover if water temperatures do not continue to warm. But, given the immense mortality rate of some of the key coral species for the reef ecosystem, if the reef survives it will never be as diverse as it once was.