Sep 12, 2018

After dire warnings of reef die-off due to massive instances of coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017, Tourism and Events Queensland has issued a positive update on the status of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, stating that some affected areas are showing substantial signs of recovery.

According to a report issued on Wednesday by the Queensland State Government, the Reef & Rainforest Research Centre has reported that these signs of recovery are due to a milder 2017-18 summer, partnered with cooperation among science, industry and government in supporting the reef’s recovery.

Coral bleaching is a result from the coral experiencing poor water quality including heightened water temperature. The coral then emits photosynthetic algae, removing their distinctive colours. If these stressful conditions continue, the coral will eventually die, however if the conditions return to their normal states, then the coral can reabsorb the emitted algae, and be on a road to recovery.

Deeper reefs are often considered as protected from event like the 2016 and 2017 bleachings, as the water temperature is generally consistent; however a report by the Nature Research Journal argues that both shallow and deep reefs are threatened by mass bleaching events. According to the report, the full impact of the 2016 bleaching, which damaged or destroyed 30 percent of the reef’s shallow water coral, has not yet been fully assessed, with researchers finding bleached coral colonies as far down as 131 feet beneath the ocean’s surface.

In light of this issue, the Australian Federal Government announced a A$500 million funding grant for the Great Barrier Reef in April. This was in order to face challenges such as climate change, coral-eating starfish and water quality affected by agricultural runoff.

The RRRC, who conducted detailed surveys at key tourism dive sites around Cairns in 2016 and 2017 in conjunction with the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, say that certain reefs that were strongly affected by the bleaching events are now showing significant signs of improvement.

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