Results from recent aerial surveys of the Great Barrier Reef will be used by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to target recovery efforts in those areas worst affected by this year’s coral bleaching event, as well as boost the resilience of those parts that remain largely unscathed.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt said the results of surveys conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies would assist the Authority to refine a support strategy for the Reef, in the wake of this year’s extreme weather conditions, in addition to ongoing pressures such as coral disease and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks.
“The Great Barrier Reef, along with other reefs around the world, has suffered a second consecutive year of mass coral bleaching, driven predominantly by ocean warming due to climate change,” Dr Reichelt said.
“In addition, the impacts of recent severe tropical cyclone Debbie, and resulting flooding in the catchment, have placed greater pressure on the Reef potentially adding to coral loss.”
The ARC aerial surveys indicate this year’s coral bleaching event has affected a large part of the central region of the Reef, which is different to last year’s event when far northern stretches of the Reef experienced the worst impact.
More promisingly, the survey results showed the bleaching was patchy and there were many reefs that remained largely unaffected, Dr Reichelt said.
“These reefs will help seed recovery. Bleaching is not the equivalent of a death knell. Reefs and individual coral colonies do have the ability to recover, depending on the severity of the bleaching and whether other pressures are reduced,” he said.