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Byron Shire
February 27, 2024

Increase in Reef coral cover comes with a warning

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The Agincourt Reef is one of the central reefs. This photo of a healthy section was taken in June 2022. Photo Tree Faerie.

As we witness the ongoing destruction of the Great Barrier Reef by global warming and climate change, new data showing an increase in coral cover in some areas of the Reef is promising news.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says it has been a difficult summer for the global icon.

The good news comes from information released last week 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.

The Agincourt Reef on a rare low tide day. Photo Tree Faerie.

Report surveys before latest mass bleaching

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.

Inshore reefs poor and deteriorating condition

‘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 ‘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.’

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  1. The increase in coral growth started 5 years ago and has been accelerating each year. It isn’t stopping, it’s still accelerating. This year is just the new record. It has topped what it was 36 years ago.
    Apparently the climate we have had over the last 5 years is good for the reef. But don’t worry, once it hits natural maximum growth limits and goes back into a down cycle, you will be told the reef is seconds from destruction. Then when it goes back into it’s next growth cycle, you will be told it’s not ‘real growth’. I could do the same perception management with the wild mice population to make you think they are going extinct. Nature is not static, it’s cycles upon cycles. Like the weather.


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