Coral reefs recovering off Australia

Marine scientists in Australia say they are astonished by the recovery of some coral reefs in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park following devastating coral bleaching in 2006. Guillermo Diaz-Pulido, of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the Centre for Marine Studies at the University of Queensland, attributed the recovery to a rare combination of factors.

“The first was exceptionally high re-growth of fragments of surviving coral tissue,” Diaz-Pulido said. “The second was an unusual seasonal dieback in the seaweeds, and the third was the presence of a highly competitive coral species, which was able to outgrow the seaweed.”


“But this also all happened in the context of a well-protected marine area and moderately good water quality”, Diaz-Pulido noted. “It is rare to see reports of reefs that bounce back from mass coral bleaching or other human impacts in less than a decade or two.”


In 2006, high sea temperatures caused massive and severe coral bleaching in the Keppel Islands, in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. The damaged reefs were quickly smothered by a single species of seaweed – an event that can spell the total loss of the corals.

The research of Diaz-Pulido and nine colleagues was published in the journal PLoS ONE. Understanding the stresses that affect reefs — such as overfishing and declining water quality – and the various ecological mechanisms of resilience is critical for reef management under climate change, they noted.

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