'Dying' coral reef shows signs of spectacular regrowthby Rich Bowden - Apr 24 2009, 05:48
Australian scientists studying the effects climate change is having on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland have cause for celebration today after discovering that parts of the damaged corals have staged a remarkable comeback.
Southern parts of the massive reef, which is a popular tourists attraction, have been badly damaged in recent years from global warming and subsequent warming sea temperatures. The change has caused what is known as "coral bleaching," a dieback of the corals that leaves the reef white.
Researchers are so concerned about the effects of climate change on the reef that they predict the entire Great Barrier Reef will suffer from bleaching in 50 years.
However, a combination of occurrences has seemingly regenerated a damaged part of the reef near the Great Keppel Islands, with researchers saying the recovery has been at a rate 10 times faster than usual.
Marine scientist Laurence McCook told the ABC's AM program that the corals have grabbed their chance to recover.
"Although the reef was covered in this massive bloom of a particular seaweed, that seaweed experienced a quite spectacular, unusual die-back," said McCook.
"Now that gave the corals a kind of a second chance if you like," he added. "And the second factor was that the corals really took that chance, showing spectacular regrowth and in particular regrowth from surviving fragments of coral tissue."
David Wachenfeld, chief scientist at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, told the program he was heartened to see damaged corals respond.
"It's incredibly heartening to see how quickly a really healthy coral reef can respond," he said.
"But of course at the same time it's somewhat sobering because it makes us realise that reefs do have to be very healthy to survive impacts of climate change, and also indicates to us that we only have a certain amount of time to do something about climate change if we want to keep coral reefs around the world," Wachenfeld continued.
One of the contributing factors in the Great Barrier Reef's rapid recovery is the pristine condition of the sea, say researchers, with pollution under control and restrictions on fishing in the area.
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