REEF RECOVERY SPAWNS HOPE
Flooding poses biggest threat but cyclones OK
A KEY report card out soon on the health of the Great Barrier Reef is expected to find a slight improvement in some areas but damage from cyclones and run-off in southern parts.
It comes as a senior scientist says the Reef is much more robust and recovers better from cyclones and coral bleaching than people think.
University of Queensland’s Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said: “As I understand it, improvements will see areas move from fairly poor to poor, so calling such change an improvement is something of a misnomer,’’ he said.
The Federal and State Governments and tourism industry are desperate to see a turnaround because UNESCO requires Australia to report back next year and in 2019 on the Reef’s condition.
UNESCO has threatened to list the World Heritage area in danger because of development and long-term degradation.
But Central Queensland University scientist Alison Jones challenged the conventional scientific view that the Reef was in trouble.
With many scientists warning the Reef may suffer another bleaching due to the El Niño, Dr Jones said she had seen excellent recovery from these events.
Usually after bl bleachinghi parts of coral remained alive from which new growth sprang. Cyclones also were not too bad for the Reef.
After a flood killed corals, their skeletons were left which slowed recovery. Cyclones tended to break down this dead coral, allowing it to quickly form a substrate on which new coral grew.
“The ideal thing is to have a nice big storm crush it all up. It then knits … and you’ve got a good substrate for coral growth,” she said.
Dr Jones said she believed many scientists and conservationists felt if public pressure was not maintained on the dangers facing the Reef, hundreds of millions of dollars for Reef repair work and research would slow up.
“There’s been a deal of scaremongering about coral bleaching damage. Floods are fa far more damaging,’’ she said. P Professor Hoegh-Guldberg sa said bleaching that occurred in southern parts of the Reef w was not nearly as severe in ot other places.
“Bleaching is a great th threat when you see what’s ha happened in the Maldives,’’ he said. “Bleaching is a big story brewing. As the climate warms it dramatically increases the risk of reefs dying. Places where temperatures of 2C to 3C above the summer average have occurred have experienced almost total mortality.
“There is a lower risk scenario here where we’ve lost about 10 per cent but that is actually a big number.’’ EDITORIAL, P20