Corals from the Australian Great Barrier Reef that have survived ‘fading’ are more resistant to global warming. Scientists report this, which signals a positive signal for the threatened ecosystem.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world. It consists of more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands, covering 2,600 kilometres in an area of approximately 334,400 square kilometres off the coast of Queensland in North East Australia.
Both in 2016 and in 2017 the reef had to do with a ‘bleaching; of the coral without previous ones. Large pieces of the coral died or were damaged and largely lost their colour, hence the term. The cause is the warming of the seawater. Due to the higher temperature, the algae that give corals their colour and food can survive more difficult.
Professor Terry Hugues, scientist at James Cook University, has long been conducting research into the ‘bleaching’ of the corals. He is now publishing a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change, which shows that the coral reacts differently to the temperature increase one year later than the other. “We were surprised to find that there was less ‘fading’ in 2017, because the temperatures were even more extreme than the year before,” says Hugues.
The northern part of the reef, which was most severely damaged in 2016, suffered a lot less in 2017, despite the fact that the stress level was just as high as the previous two summers. In the central part of the reef the ‘bleaching’ was the same during those two years. Although it was warmer in 2017. The southern part of the reef, which is the least affected, had to deal with a slight ‘fading’ in 2016 . And remained undamaged the following year.