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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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Taking stock of coral resilience on the Great Barrier Reef

27
Oct 2017

Posted By

ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies

In the aftermath of back-to-back coral bleaching, researchers are turning their attention to how the Reef is likely to recover.

In November 2016, scientists confirmed the largest die-off of corals ever recorded on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The culprit, sustained heat stress and subsequent bleaching due to global warming. Four months later, researchers observed a reoccurrence of mass bleaching across the Reef, with the central northern reefs the most severely affected. Suddenly, what had been discrete disturbances to the reef, were now recurrent events threatening the survival of reefs worldwide.

What does this mean for the future of the GBR?

One way to understand the Reef’s ability to cope with stress, or its ‘resilience,’ is to assess its ability to produce offspring that can settle and create new reef. This process is known as ‘coral recruitment,’ and is critical to the health of coral reef ecosystems and a key driver of reef resilience and recovery.

A team of researchers, led by Prof Terry Hughes, are gearing up to examine recruitment across the GBR. Building on a previous study published in Nature in 1999, the scientists will travel to 15 of the original study reefs, stretching over 1,700 km. At each of the reefs, the teams will install settlement panels that will be retrieved following the annual mass coral spawning event in November. They will then assess levels of recruitment and compare with the previous findings. Finally, the team will consider what, if any, impact a range of disturbances might have had on coral recruitment, including bleaching events, tropical storms and other threats such as outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish.

Please monitor our Facebook & Twitter feeds for field updates.

The full paper titled “Patterns of recruitment and abundance of corals along the Great Barrier Reef” is available here.

Coral spawning on Orpheus Island, Great Barrier Reef. Credit: Andrew Baird
Coral spawning on Orpheus Island, Great Barrier Reef. Credit: Andrew Baird

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au