Surviving coral in Great Barrier Reef develops resilience

Pat Wise
December 13, 2018

Study co-author, James Cook University's Dr Andrew Hoey, said the combined footprint of the two bleaching events had killed almost half of the corals on two-thirds of the world's largest reef system.

The future of the world's coral reefs is uncertain, as the impact of global heating continues to escalate.

It's being described as an example of "ecological memory", and a "silver lining" for the embattled ecosystem.

The central regions copped about the same level of bleaching in both years.

According to the researchers, the combined 2016 and 2017 bleaching events killed about half the corals on the north and middle regions of the Great Barrier Reef.

"Dead corals don't bleach for a second time", he stated in a press release from the Arc Center of Excellence Coral Reef Studies.

Since then, however, Far Northern tourism identity and marine biologist Wendy Morris, who has been monitoring patches of juvenile coral across the fringing reef, said the marine environment appeared to be bouncing back from disaster. The reason why there was less bleaching past year was that the more susceptible species of corals died off in 2016.

Usually, corals are recovering themselves if ocean warming drops or algae are recolonizing the corals, even though "families" of corals died or were harmed by the unique and consecutive coral bleaching events which mainly affected the heat-susceptible corals which look like tables.

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Although the tougher corals appeared to be showing greater resilience to high temperatures during the second year of bleaching, that's not the main reason for the lower mortality, according to the research published in Nature Climate Change today.

The world's top scientists gathered in the Florida Keys this week to find ways to preserve and restore the planet's coral reefs.

"That surprised us, because if the southern corals had behaved the same way in year two as in year one, we should have seen 20 or 30 percent of them bleach, and they didn't", Hughes told AFP. "Their physiology has changed", Professor Hughes said.

Healthy staghorn coral at Lizard Island.

This is partially caused by bleaching events becoming more frequent.

The film reveals an underlying lack of co-operation between government, marine research scientists, activists, politicians, indigenous leaders and the general public as being a core factor in the rapid decline of the reef's health.

"There's no time to lose to reduce greenhouse gas emissions".

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