Parts of Great Barrier Reef have highest coral cover in 36 years, report finds


Central and northern parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have seen their highest levels of coral cover in 36 years, suggesting vulnerable UNESCO World Heritage sites are still likely to recover from Decades of damage, a monitoring group reported on Thursday. However, the group said coral cover had declined in southern parts of the reef, and the reef was vulnerable to increasingly common disturbances such as mass bleaching events.

Average hard coral cover increases from 27% in 2021 to 36% in 2022 at the Australian Coral Reef Institute, and average hard coral cover in the Central Region from 27% in 2021 to 33% in 2022 Marine Science (AIMS) stated in its annual summary Report.

Nonetheless, “one-third of the increase in coral cover we recorded in the south in 2020/21 is lost due to continued outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish,” AIMS chief executive Dr Paul Hardisti said in a statement “This shows how vulnerable coral reefs are to more frequent and longer-lasting persistent acute and severe disturbances.”


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AIMS has been monitoring the Great Barrier Reef since 1986. It said the increased frequency of mass bleaching events — when corals lose their pigment and symbiotic algae, turn white and possibly die under stressful conditions such as heat — is “unknown” territory. “

“In the 36 years we’ve been monitoring the condition of the Great Barrier Reef, we’ve never seen a bleaching event this close,” Hardesty said. “Each summer, coral reefs are at risk of temperature stress, bleaching and potential mortality, and we have a great deal of concern about the ecological environment. The understanding of how the system responds to this situation is still developing.”

Dr Mike Emslie, also from the AIMS Monitoring Programme, said much of the coral increase in the northern and central reefs was driven by fast-growing but vulnerable Acropora corals and could therefore be quickly reversed.

“These corals are particularly vulnerable to damage from waves, such as those caused by strong winds and tropical cyclones,” Emsley said. “The increased frequency of rising ocean temperatures and the extent of mass bleaching events underscores the serious threat climate change poses to all coral reefs, especially with crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and tropical cyclones also occurring. Future disturbances may reverse The observed recovery was very short.”



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