The Australian Institute of Marine Science’s (AIMS) finding that hard coral cover has increased across all regions of the Great Barrier Reef is very welcome news.
AIMS released key findings from its Long-Term Monitoring Program Annual Summer Report of Coral Reef Condition for 2020-21 of the Great Barrier Reef.
The report found:
- hard coral cover has increased across the Northern, Central and Southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in the past two years
- of the 127 Reef’s surveyed, most had moderate or high coral cover
- there was no prolonged heat stress or any cyclones of note
- there was a decreased number of crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks across much of the Reef.
The report shows that despite a decade of impacts such as marine heatwaves, the Great Barrier Reef is still a resilient ecosystem and can recover from extreme events if disturbance-free periods are long enough.
Results from 2021 are encouraging and revealed minimal loss of coral from the 2020 mass bleaching event.
Only a few survey reefs experienced heat stress during 2020 above the threshold at which extensive coral mortality was expected.
Climate change remains the single greatest threat to the Reef and the strongest possible global efforts to reduce emissions are essential.
This action, along with delivering the work already being undertaken to enhance the resilience of the Reef at local levels, is critical for the Reef’s long-term outlook.
This includes protecting coral cover through crown-of-thorns starfish control, improved water quality, increased monitoring and effective Marine Park management. This includes preventing illegal fishing, and exploring restoration and management interventions to support recovery of species and habitats.