Parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are showing the highest coral cover in 36 years


The report comes as UNESCO is considering whether to list the Great Barrier Reef as “at risk” following a visit by UNESCO experts in March. The meeting of the World Heritage Committee, at which the fate of the reef was on the agenda, was scheduled to take place in Russia in June but was postponed.

In a key measure of reef health, AIMS defines hard coral cover greater than 30% as high based on its long-term survey of the reef.

In the northern region, average hard coral cover increased from a low of 13% in 2017 to 36% in 2022, while hard coral cover in the central region increased from a low of 12% in 2019 to 33% – the highest levels ever recorded in both regions since the Institute began monitoring the reef in 1985.

In the southern region, which generally has higher hard coral coverage than the other two regions, cover fell from 38% a year earlier to 34% in 2022.

The recovery comes after the fourth mass bleaching in seven years and the first during a La Nina event that usually brings cooler temperatures. While bleaching in 2020 and 2022 will be extensive, the institute says, it will not be as damaging as in 2016 and 2017.

On the other hand, cover growth has been fueled by Acropora corals, which AIMS says are particularly vulnerable to wave damage, heat stress and crown-of-thorns starfish.

“We are really in uncharted waters when it comes to the impact of bleaching and what it means to move forward. But to this day, it’s still an amazing place,” Emslie said. Parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are showing the highest coral cover in 36 years

Fry Electronics Team

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