October 3, 2022
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Parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef show highest coral cover in 36 years

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

MELBOURNE/SYDNEY — Two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef confirmed the biggest quantity of coral cover in 36 years, however the reef stays weak to more and more frequent mass bleaching, an official long-term monitoring program reported on Thursday. 

The restoration in the central and northern stretches of the UNESCO world heritage-listed reef contrasted with the southern area, the place there was a loss of coral cover as a consequence of crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS) mentioned in its annual report. 

“What we’re seeing is that the Great Barrier Reef is still a resilient system. It still maintains that ability to recover from disturbances,” AIMS monitoring program chief Mike Emslie advised Reuters. 

“But the worrying thing is that the frequency of these disturbance events are increasing, particularly the mass coral bleaching events,” he mentioned. 

The report comes as UNESCO considers whether or not to listing the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger,” following a go to by UNESCO consultants in March. The World Heritage Committee assembly the place the destiny of the reef was on the agenda was as a consequence of be held in Russia in June however was postponed. 

In a key measure of reef well being, AIMS defines laborious coral cover of greater than 30% as excessive worth, primarily based on its long-term surveys of the reef. 

On the northern area, common laborious coral cover grew to 36% in 2022 from a low of 13% in 2017, whereas on the central area laborious coral cover elevated to 33% from a low of 12% in 2019 — the highest ranges recorded for each areas because the institute started monitoring the reef in 1985. 

Within the southern area, nonetheless, which usually has larger laborious coral cover than the opposite two areas, cover fell to 34% in 2022 from 38% a yr earlier. 

The restoration comes after the fourth mass bleaching in seven years and the primary throughout a La Nina occasion, which usually brings cooler temperatures. Whereas in depth, the institute mentioned, the bleaching in 2020 and 2022 was not as damaging as in 2016 and 2017. 

On the draw back, the expansion in cover has been pushed by Acropora corals, which AIMS mentioned are notably weak to wave injury, warmth stress and crown-of-thorns starfish. 

“We’re really in uncharted waters when it comes to the effects of the bleaching and what it means moving forward. But as of today, it’s still a fantastic place,” Mr. Emslie mentioned. — Sonali Paul and James Redmayne/Reuters

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