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Coral cover reaches highest ever amounts on parts of Great Barrier Reef

According to marine scientists, coral cover has increased by 36 percent on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The coral is still highly susceptible to mass bleaching events that are increasing in frequency as humans warm the oceans, according to the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences’ (AIMS) annual report.

The central and northern stretches were rehabilitated, but not the southern regions. This was due to coral loss from crown-of-thorns starfish.

Mike Emslie, the leader of the AIMS monitoring programme, said that the Great Barrier Reef is still a “resilient” system that “still has that ability to recover after disturbances.”

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He said, “But the worrying part is that the frequency and severity of these disturbance events are increasing,” he explained.

This year’s first mass bleaching occurred during a La Nina year. A natural climate cycle that typically brings lower temperatures to coral recovery, this was earlier in the year. This was the fourth major bleaching event in seven year.

Dr Emslie stated that climate change is causing more frequent and lasting marine heatwaves.

More information about Australia

He said that the rising frequency of ocean temperature rises and the severity of bleaching events highlight the serious threat climate change poses for all reefs, especially while starfish outbreaks like crown-of-thorns and tropical storms are also taking place.”

He said, “Future disturbance could reverse the observed recovery within a short time.”

Dr Paul Hardisty, chief executive of AIMS, stated that the rising frequency of such events was “uncharted territory for the reef.”

He said, “In our 36-years of monitoring the Great Barrier Reef’s condition, we have never seen bleaching events so closely together.”

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Concerns about Great Barrier Reef bleaching

This report is coming as UNESCO examines whether to place the Great Barrier Reef in “in danger” following a March visit by the United Nations.

This matter was to be discussed at a June meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Russia, but was postponed.

AIMS uses hard coral coverage greater than 30% to determine reef health. This is based on the long-term.

Surveys of the reef

The average hard coral coverage in the northern region grew to 36% by 2022. In the central region, however, it rose to 33%. This is the highest level of hard coral coverage since 1985 when the institute started monitoring the reef.

The southern region, which has a higher amount of hard coral than the two other regions, saw its cover drop to 34% in 2022, from 38% one year earlier.


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