August 8, 2022
Parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef see highest coral cover in 36 years

Parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef see highest coral cover in 36 years

The increase in cover has been driven by Acropora corals. (Representative)


Two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef showed the greatest amount of coral cover in 36 years, but the reef is increasingly vulnerable to widespread bleaching, an official long-term monitoring program reported on Thursday.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) said the recovery in the central and northern parts of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef is in contrast to the southern region, where there was a loss of coral cover due to an outbreak of the crown-of-thorns starfish. in its annual report.

“This shows how vulnerable the reef is to persistent, intense and severe disturbances that are occurring more frequently and are longer lasting,” AIMS chief executive Paul Hardisty said in a statement.

The report comes after a visit by UNESCO experts in March as UNESCO considers whether to list the Great Barrier Reef as “threatened”. A meeting of the World Heritage Committee where the fate of the reef was on the agenda was due to take place in Russia in June, but was postponed.

In a key measure of reef health, the AIMS defines hard coral cover of more than 30% as high value based on long-term surveys of its reefs.

In the northern region, the average hard coral cover increased from a low of 13 per cent in 2017 to 36 per cent in 2022, while the hard coral cover in the central region increased to 33 per cent from a low of 12 per cent in 2019 – a reef by the Institute in 1985. The highest level was recorded for both the regions since the start of surveillance.

However, in the southern region, which generally has more hard coral cover than the other two regions, cover fell to 34 per cent in 2022 from 38 per cent a year earlier.

The recovery comes after the fourth mass bleaching in seven years and the first during a La Nia event, but Hardisty said that while widespread, bleaching in 2020 and 2022 was not as harmful as in 2016 and 2017.

“These latest results suggest that the reef may still be recovering in a period free from acute disturbances,” Hardisty said.

On the downside, the increase in cover has been driven by Acropora corals, which the AIMS said are particularly vulnerable to wave damage, heat stress and crown-of-thorns starfish.

“This means that large increases in hard coral cover can be quickly negated by disturbances on reefs where Acropora corals predominate,” said AIMS monitoring program leader Mike Emsley.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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