12.5 C
Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Reef island showing vital signs of life

Latest News

Fast Buck$ ejected from Byron Council meeting

During this morning's Byron Shire Council meeting a dispute between the Mayor Simon Richardson and local activist and agitator Fast Buck$ over the pronunciation of Cr Sarah Ndiaye's name led to the meeting being suspended.

Other News

Your Local Club Academy Games

The North Coast Academy of Sport prepared its largest squad ever to compete at the 2021 Your Local Club Academy Games, held in the Hunter region last weekend.

Upgrades for Lighthouse Parade in Ballina

One of the showcase areas of Ballina is about to get a safety and aesthetic upgrade, with the Lighthouse Parade Pedestrian Precinct and Road Safety Project commencing soon.

Augmented Reality gives local art exhibition a high-tech twist

A Byron Bay art gallery is seeking to bring paintings to life in its new exhibition, by making Augmented Reality technology part of the experience.

Koala Wars

James Wright, Byron Bay On reading Dailan’s ‘Koala Wars’ I felt compelled introduce the readers to interesting debate about the health and...

You Donne good

Liz Levy, Suffolk Park I’d like to thank whoever decided to reprint John Donne’s beautiful poem ‘No Man is an Island’...

Poor Council drains

Kate Anderson, Mullumbimby In response to and support of Kerry Gray’s and Robin Gracie’s letters Echo 31 March). The McGoughans Lane...

Kay Davis at One Tree Island. Photo supplied.

Two of Australia’s ‘Greats’ are in danger. The Great Artesian Basin and the Great Barrier Reef are both in the shadow of the fossil fuel industry and both could both suffer irreversible damage because of it.

Large portions of the Great Barrier Reef have experienced devastating coral decline, but there is one island bucking the trend.

Researcher Kay Davis. Photo supplied.

New research from Southern Cross University doctoral researcher Kay Davis shows One Tree Island, near Gladstone in the southernmost neighbourhood of the Great Barrier Reef, has experienced remarkable coral growth.

Ms Davis says the findings were completely unexpected and showed a coral ecosystem calcification increase of 400 per cent between 2014 to 2017.

Her team analysed the chemistry of water samples to measure whether coral and algae were growing or declining and at what rate, to determine how the ecosystem compares to previous studies conducted in the 1970s and throughout the 2000s.

The new research, published this month in Frontiers in Marine Science open-source journal with Ms Davis as the lead author, is entitled Fifty Years of Sporadic Coral Reef Calcification Estimates at One Tree Island, Great Barrier Reef: Is it Enough to Imply Long Term Trends?

Ms Davis said a devastating cyclone hit the One Tree Island reef in 2009, and no metabolic recovery was detected even five years after. ‘In 2014, calcification had declined at One Tree Island by 75 per cent, and we expected this trend to continue due to ocean acidification inhibiting coral recovery. However, we found that the coral ecosystem has completely recovered from this cyclone event after eight years.’

Davis says not only did water chemistry results show that calcification was recovering, there was a visible increase in the amount of coral as well, with coral cover increasing to 30-40 percent. ‘However, we are still seeing an increase in organic productivity as well, which should continue to be monitored in the future.

‘When compared to previous results, the coral calcification rate is slightly higher now than it was in the 1970s.

One Tree Island coral slope. Photo supplied.

‘One Tree Island is a special case because it is a scientific permit zone only with limited human impact from runoff, accidental coral damage by tourists, and impact from boats. This could be part of the reason the reef has recovered so quickly.’

However, other islands have not been so lucky.

Kay Davis teamed up with other researchers for a similar research trip to Lizard Island on the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef.

She is the co-author of another research paper, published this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, entitled Coral reef calcification and production after the 2016 bleaching event at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef.

Ms Davis says Lizard Island is experiencing total ecosystem collapse.

‘Algae is taking over that ecosystem by our chemical measurements. It is becoming an algal dominated area, instead of coral dominated,’ she said.

‘We looked at rates of calcification, coral growth, organic production and algae growth. The coral calcification rate had decreased by 45 per cent compared to a 2009 study when the ecosystem was healthy before the bleaching events of 2015 and 2016.’

Lizard Island – Photo supplied

Ms Davis is a Minnesota-raised scientist who moved to Southern Cross University in Australia to pursue her PhD through the University’s National Marine Science Centre – the top oceanographical research centre in the New South Wales.

She said while it feels good to be working towards answers to climate change and how to better protect the reef, it was also disheartening to see some of these results.

‘When a reef is severely degraded it’s very sad, but I’m glad to be part of a team that is working towards understanding what drives coral health and how we can better protect these ecosystems in the future, informing policy decisions.

‘Although these kinds of studies are very time consuming and require a lot of expertise, this research is beneficial as it not only describes what see visually on the reef, but shows the chemistry and metabolic pulse of the coral reef – the function of the ecosystem we can’t see with our eyes.’

In March this year Kay Davis was awarded Southern Cross University’s International Women’s Day Scholarship for her outstanding research. She accepted the award via video link from her latest research location at Lord Howe Island, the southernmost coral reef in the world located 600 km directly east of mainland Port Macquarie on the NSW mid north coast.

‘Lord Howe Island is so beautiful and we are the first team to ever measure ecosystem metabolism on the reef there,’ she said.

‘I hope my award will inspire other women to follow their passion in science, so Australia can raise its relative percentage in STEM careers above the current 16 per cent.’


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. Through the stupidity of white Australians as the indigenous would not do it, The Great Artesian Basin and the Great Barrier Reef have suffered irreversible damage.

  2. Well done Southern Cross University for developing another fantastic scientist !

    Congratulations on the research outcomes Miss Davis.

  3. …and if those nice Norwegians from Equinor get their way, the Great Australian Bight will be in danger from fossil fuel lunacy, too.
    Today’s Australia under its ruling corporatocracy is great at destroying everything that used to be great about this country.

  4. When the Aborigine says “We do not own *
    the earth – the earth owns us” it’s the
    truth. Now it’s time for us all to be true
    custodians of our beloved Earth Mother.

    Oodgeroo (Kath Walker) *

    WHEEL [Stefanie Bennett]

    In the saddened air hanging
    blotting paper hints
    at being sky. Oceans
    have been sponged up.
    Forests cling
    to this pulp ceiling.

    Insight of beholders, our views
    are bound to differ.
    See! A plastic lark is still
    engaged in its singing.
    A marble dog characteristically
    howls for her supper.
    The jaded rooster struts
    his psychological affairs…

    Come, lay yourself down
    face first upon
    this absolving mirror.
    Don’t ask what it is we’ve
    not done: ask now about
    the necessity of sowing.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Shenhua gone and Breeza breathes again

In a much-hoped-for move, the NSW Government and the China Shenhua Energy Company Limited have reached a $100 million agreement in which Shenhua will withdraw its mining lease application and surrender its development consent for the Shenhua Watermark Coal project at Breeza on the Liverpool Plains.

Pandemic plate lickers release lockdown dessert

The 2020 pandemic lockdown meant the entire entertainment industry was cancelled, but making music cannot be cancelled.

5MW solar farm funding under question

A 5MW solar farm proposed for Myocum, located near the Byron Resource Recovery Centre, poses a ‘high degree of risk’, and could jeopardise funding for other large Council infrastructure projects, according to a staff report, to be tabled at this Thursday’s meeting.

Tony Barry, Ben Chifley and FD’s Four Freedoms

Local actor-vist, Tony Barry, has taken on a lot since he moved to the Northern Rivers, and though cancer took one of his legs, Tony still manages to put in the hard yards for social, environmental and human rights causes.