Reef of hope

A pris­tine site found on the re­mote outer Great Bar­rier Reef could help re­build vast sec­tions of co­ral wiped out by re­cent mass bleach­ing events.

Australian Geographic - - Geobuzz -

MARINE EX­PERTS on board a Novem­ber ex­pe­di­tion to waters off far north Queens­land have con­firmed the ex­is­tence of a tiny reef that was spared the re­cent bleach­ing events that re­duced liv­ing co­ral cover across two-thirds of the Great Bar­rier Reef (GBR). The so-called Legacy Su­per Site is less than 500m across, and may be so im­por­tant to the fu­ture of the GBR that its lo­ca­tion re­mains a se­cret. Sci­en­tists are un­sure about what con­di­tions at the site have man­aged to pro­tect it from the el­e­vated sea tem­per­a­tures that lead to co­ral bleach­ing (see AG 142). Es­teemed co­ral re­searcher Dr Char­lie Veron – part of the pres­ti­gious team of marine sci­en­tists and ed­u­ca­tors on board the ex­pe­di­tion or­gan­ised by GBR Legacy, a not-for-profit sup­ported by the AG So­ci­ety – de­scribed the site as “the most beau­ti­ful and bi­o­log­i­cally im­por­tant site the Great Bar­rier Reef has”. The site sup­ports more than 195 co­ral species, rep­re­sent­ing nearly half of all species on the en­tire GBR. This of­fers hope that co­ral spawn from the se­cret site (left) could re-seed de­bil­i­tated sec­tions of the GBR fur­ther south. Ex­perts warn, how­ever, that if global warm­ing con­tin­ues, the

GBR’s long-term fu­ture will con­tinue to be threat­ened.

KAREN MCGHEE

The huge size of this plate co­ral, over which pi­o­neer­ing reef con­ser­va­tion­ist John Rum­ney floats, is a sign this reef has been un­touched by re­cent co­ral bleach­ing events.

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