New data showing an increase in coral cover in some areas of the Great Barrier Reef is promising news after a difficult summer for our global icon, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.
The information released today by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) shows improvement in the northern and central sections of the reef but less coral cover in the southern section. Most of the increases are with fast-growing but easily destroyed species of the branching coral acropora.
Half of the surveys carried out for the report occurred before the latest mass bleaching event in March – the fourth since 2016 and the first in a La Nina year. The full impact of the latest bleaching event is not yet fully known, AIMS scientists say.
AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaigner Cherry Muddle said: “The report is heartening for anyone who loves our beautiful Reef. But the fact remains that unless fossil fuel emissions are drastically cut, our Reef will remain in danger from heat stress and more mass bleaching events.
“It is important to note that the increase in hard coral cover in the northern and central regions is mostly with the acropora species – a branching and table coral which is particularly susceptible to marine heatwaves and cyclones, and the preferred food for crown of thorns starfish.
“We hope the good progress continues but we are also concerned that we’re losing the Reef’s incredible diversity with unknown consequences for an array of marine wildlife.
“In the wake of the State of the Environment report, which showed Australian inshore reefs were in a poor and deteriorating condition due to climate and water pollution pressures, it is more important than ever that we ensure urgent action is taken to address all threats to the Reef.
“If we want a future with the Reef in it, we need a climate policy that holds warming to less than 1.5C – this is a key threshold for coral reefs.
“For the sake of the 60,000 people who rely on the Reef’s health for their livelihoods, we must rapidly transition to renewables and stop new coal and gas developments.
“We must ensure the $1bn funding committed by the Queensland and Federal governments to tackle water pollution in our Reef is targeted wisely and front loaded to achieve the most bang for buck. And we must do more to protect threatened marine wildlife in our Reef from the poor fishing practices.”