Reef authority reveals more coral bleaching


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Spot checks between Cairns and Townsville has revealed further coral bleaching to the Great Barrier Reef. IMAGE: Coral Reef Studies.

SPOT checks conducted between Cairns and Townsville have revealed moderate to severe coral bleaching at some reefs.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority conducted 54 in-water spot surveys of six reefs this week following early warning system reports of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. 

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt said all six reefs surveyed had experienced thermal stress, following 12 months of sustained above-average temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef and current sea temperatures approximately two degrees warmer than average.

“Initial survey results showed high levels of bleaching among the most sensitive coral species, with 60 per cent or more affected at some sites,” Reichelt said.

“However, coral species generally resistant to bleaching, such as boulder corals, fared better, displaying a much lower incidence of bleaching. Reports of coral bleaching have been increasing over the summer, in the wake of 12 months of sustained above-average temperatures.

“The Marine Park Authority is working closely with its partners in the tourism, fishing and research fields to build a comprehensive picture of the current and anticipated impacts of further coral bleaching.”

Above-average temperatures are predicted until the end of March and into April; however local weather events — such as monsoonal rain — could bring cool relief to Reef waters.

The bleaching incidents on the Great Barrier Reef are part of a global coral bleaching event that has been affecting the world’s coral reefs for at least two years. 

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