Great Barrier Reef coral cover reaches record high, but risks remain

Sydney, Australia, Aug 4 (EFE).- The Great Barrier Reef, situated in northeast Australia and considered the largest coral system in the world, has witnessed its coral cover rise to the highest level in at least 36 years but continues to be vulnerable to mass bleaching due to the climate crisis, experts said in an official annual report released on Thursday.

“In 2022, widespread recovery has led to the highest coral cover recorded by the Long Term Monitoring Program in the Northern and Central GBR,” said the annual report on coral reef condition, prepared by the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

The LTPM study, which was started 36 years ago, shows that 39 out of the 87 reefs surveyed between August 2021 and May 2022 had hard coral cover levels between 10 and 30 percent, while in another 28 reefs the cover stood at 30-50 percent, much higher than the levels registered in the 2021 report.

The recovery is mainly due to “increases in the fast-growing Acropora corals (Elkhorn corals), which are the dominant group of corals on the GBR and have been largely responsible for previous changes in hard coral cover,” said the AIMS report.

However, the institute also highlighted that this coral species was also the most susceptible to damage caused by waves, triggered by strong winds and tropical cyclones, as well as bleaching due to sea water getting warmer.

They are also a preferred prey for crown-of-thorns starfish.

“This means that large increases in hard coral cover can quickly be negated by disturbances on reefs where Acropora corals predominate,” AIMS expert Mike Emslie said in a statement.

The AIMS also underlined that the southern part of the GBR had reported a drop in its coral cover, going down to 34 percent this year from 38 percent in 2021, due to crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks.

“This shows how vulnerable the Reef is to the continued acute and severe disturbances that are occurring more often, and are longer-lasting,” AIMS CEO Paul Hardisty said.

´La Gran Barrera -que corre el riesgo de ser incluida en la lista de Patrimonio de la Humanidad en peligro, sufrió importantes blanqueos en 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 y 2020, así como en 2022, a pesar de que ese año estuvo dominado por el fenómeno de La Niña que causa una bajada de temperaturas en Australia.

The Great Barrier Reef – which has remained on the verge of being included in the list of endangered UNESCO World Heritage Sites – previously suffered significant bleaching in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017, 2020 as well as 2022, despite the La Nina weather phenomenon, which led to lower temperatures in Australia.

Home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of molluscs, the Great Barrier Reef began to deteriorate in the 1990s due to the double impact of warming sea water and increased acidity due to the greater presence of CO2 in the atmosphere. EFE


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