State of Far North reef prompts “f-bomb” from prominent scientist
A PROMINENT marine scientist has dropped the “f-bomb” after surveying one of the areas worst hit by coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.
Lizard Island, about 265km north of Cairns, suffered big losses in the recent mass bleaching event and Professor Terry Hughes has tweeted a photo of nearby Max Reef.
“Counting what’s left on the northern 1/3 of the #GreatBarrierReef: Yesterday, Max Reef, beside Lizard Island. (Expletive),” he posted on Twitter.
Prof Hughes is director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Sea Studies and among 40 researchers from James Cook University comparing coral cover on 83 reefs in the northern two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef over the next five weeks.
“We’re expecting the 35 per cent that we saw in March will have crept up over the past six months because corals have been doing two things – they’ve either been regaining their colour and that’s nearly been completed or some more of them will have died,” he told the Cairns Post.
“We’re expecting to find the southern reefs in good condition – they had very low levels of bleaching …”
“The reefs between Townsville and Cairns, we will probably be looking at 5-10 per cent loss and north of Port Douglas, we’ll have to wait and see.
“That’s where the reefs were most severely bleached.”
Prof Hughes said the survival rate of corals depended on a microscopic algae called zooxanthellae, which gave them their colour.
“During a bleaching event, those algae are depleted and coral is comprised nutritionally,” he said.
“That’s why some of them die. They don’t get colour back quickly enough.”
Australian Museum Lizard Island Research Station director Dr Lyle Vail fears Prof Hughes’ predictions may be partly true for reefs within a 10km radius of the island, but there was also some recovery.
“You’ve really got to go out and do coral coverage measurements,” he said.
Given half a chance, coral reefs can rebound relatively quickly.
“But it’s going to take many years for it to get back to the same condition as before the bleaching event.”