Finally, Good News from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef | Pro IQRA News

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The climate news has been dire lately. Volcanic eruptions, heat waves and drought, just to name a few.

But amid all the worrying headlines, there’s a glimmer of hope – Australia’s Great Barrier Reef appears to be recovering somewhat.

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What happened to the reef before?

The World Heritage site is suffering from mass bleaching, where the coral growing there is essentially being destroyed.

Mass bleaching usually occurs when delicate coral polyps are effectively cooked in unusually warm waters. When coral is bleached, it bleaches, although it can recover when the water temperature normalizes.

However, if warm water persists for too long—often the result of a climate crisis—large areas of the reef can die.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority previously explained that the bleached coral was “still under stress while alive”.

Bleaching has happened many times since 2016.

Widespread bleaching from March 2022
Widespread bleaching from March 2022

GLENN NICHOLLS via Getty Images

What happened now?

A long-term monitoring program has found that two-thirds of the famous reef now has the largest coral cover seen in 36 years, indicating recovery from previous bleaching.

According to the Australian Institute of Marine Science, while the southern region is still struggling, progress has been made in the central and northern parts of the reef.

“What we see is that the Great Barrier Reef is still a robust system. He is still able to recover from the riots,” said Mike Emsley, head of the program.

Hard coral cover in the northern region increased from 13% in 2017 to 36% in 2022.

The coral cover of the central region increased from 12% in 2019 to 33%.

Both of these areas are recording the highest levels since monitoring began in 1985.

All is not well, though

As with all climate news right now, we shouldn’t be complacent just yet.

In the southern region of the reef, coral cover in 2021 was 38%. In 2022, it decreased to 34%.

Emsile told Reuters that while the recovery of the northern and central regions is encouraging, “the frequency of these events of concern, especially the mass coral bleaching events, is increasing.”

There have been four mass bleaching events in the past seven years – one of which was during a La Nina event, an oceanic phenomenon that causes surface ocean waters to cool.

Even in more confident areas of development, there are concerns that it may not be sustainable. Recovery has been driven by Acropora corals, which are vulnerable to wave damage, heat stress and starfish crowns.

“We’re really in uncharted waters when it comes to the effects of bleaching and what progress means,” Emslie said. “But to this day, it’s still a fantastic place.”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is still considering whether to list the site as “in danger”. The World Heritage Committee was supposed to discuss the fate of the reef in Russia in June, but it was later postponed.

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