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Climate change still reef's biggest threat

 

A post summer check up of the Great Barrier Reef has revealed low level coral bleaching at some locations and signs of minor stress from wet season flooding.

The low to moderate coral bleaching was found in the central region of the Great Barrier Reef and some bleaching occurred in the northern and southern regions. The floodwater impact was described by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) as low.

GBRMPA's Climate Change Director Paul Marshall said it was a reminder of the importance of building the Reef's health so it can withstand these pressures.

"This summer was a milder one for the Great Barrier Reef compared to the extreme weather of last year, but climate change continues to be the greatest threat to coral reefs worldwide," he said.

"The events of last summer showed us that coral, seagrass and wildlife such as turtles and dugong are vulnerable to extreme weather.

"A range of climate change projections suggest the intensity of these types of events will increase."

Over this summer scientists, researchers and industry partners contributed over 190 reef health surveys at 43 reefs in the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem as part of our Eye on the Reef program.

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Their monitoring found small, isolated areas of bleaching at a few locations, but no reefs were seriously affected.

Monitoring also found juvenile and adult crown-of-thorns starfish and patchy coral damage from anchoring.

"There will be ongoing monitoring to keep an eye out for further changes," Dr Marshall said.

Sea temperatures and rainfalls rose above average monthly levels throughout most of the Great Barrier Reef during February and early March, but didn’t get high enough to cause serious problems.

Localised heavy rainfalls resulted in isolated flood plumes entering Reef waters, but the impact was low compared to the extensive flooding of last summer.

Surveys will also be undertaken over the next few months to assess whether there are signs of recovery for reefs affected by extreme weather last year.

 

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