Most of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef shows record high coral cover despite bleaching events

Since monitoring began 36 years ago, the Great Barrier Reef has seen record levels of coral cover across two-thirds of the world’s largest reef systems. new report By the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

Eighty-seven representative reefs surveyed between August 2021 and May 2022 revealed that average hard coral cover in the northern region increased from 27% in 2021 to 36%.

The Central region also increased from 26% in 2021 to 33%. Average coral cover in the southern region remains relatively high, but has decreased from 38% in 2021 to 34%.

The recovery comes after coral bleaching events have become increasingly frequent, with the most recent bleaching event occurring in March.

AIMS CEO Paul Hardisti said: “In 36 years of monitoring the condition of the Great Barrier Reef, bleaching events have never come this close together.

“Each summer, coral reefs are exposed to temperature stress, bleaching and potential mortality, and our understanding of how ecosystems respond is still developing.”

AIMS monitoring program team leader Mike Emsley said the results were largely behind fast-growing but very vulnerable Acropora corals.

Marine geophysicist Peter Ridd, who has long been outspoken about misinformation about the state of coral reefs, says other media outlets still “can find the bad news in these fantastic statistics.” .

“Ignore them,” he wrote Post to Facebook“We need to celebrate how great our Great Barrier Reef is.”

Epoch Times photo
Taken on November 20, 2014, this photo shows an aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef off the Whitsundays, along Queensland’s central coast. (Sarah Rai/AFP via Getty Images)

Health Marine Senator Peter Wish Wilson, a spokesperson for the Green Party, welcomed reports of record coral recovery.

“But it’s also important to note that fast-growing corals are most threatened by marine heatwaves and pests,” he said.

Whish-Wilson argued that the Labor government’s current climate goals are a “political choice” and a “death sentence” for coral reefs.

‘I didn’t quite understand’

AIMS said in its report that reef restoration is not yet fully understood and is a continuing focus of research and monitoring.

“This recovery has occurred despite the two most recent large-scale coral bleaching events in 2020 and 2022. This suggests that widespread coral bleaching does not necessarily lead to coral death. emphasized,” it said.

Sublethal effects such as reduced growth and larval settlement are understood to have long-term effects on reef recovery dynamics.

“However, the full extent of these effects is not well understood and will become clearer in the future,” the report said.

The AIMS report comes ahead of a UNESCO report, which is expected to indicate that the reef system is in a deteriorating state.

In June 2021, a United Nations commission chaired by China recommended that the Great Barrier Reef be added to the list of “in danger” World Heritage Sites.

This was hotly contested by the government at the time, with former environment minister Susan Ray claiming it was a politically motivated move for “the best managed coral reef anywhere in the world.”

A UN delegation visited the reef during peak bleaching events in March 2022 to assess whether it should be added to the list.

A recent Australian government report also claimed that Australia’s ecosystems were at risk of collapse, but omitted key data that contradicted the claim.

Rebecca Chu


Rebecca Zhu is based in Sydney. She focuses on the national politics of Australia and New Zealand. Any tips? Please contact her at [email protected]