Coral shows signs of recovery

PRECIOUS coral at Lord Howe Island may be recovering from a severe bleaching that damaged the reef last year, said two local scientists.

Dr Steve Dalton and Dr Andrew Carroll, from South Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre, said they had found significant signs of recovery.

The world’s southern-most coral reef lies within the Lord Howe Island Marine Park and is part of the Lord Howe Island World Heritage site located in the Tasman Sea, 600km east of the northern NSW coast.

During summer 2010 warmer than usual seawater temperatures, combined with a period of light winds and little cloud cover, led to mild to moderate bleaching in some parts of the reef system and almost total coral bleaching in other areas.

In fact bleaching levels ranged between 60 and 95 per cent at some sites.

“Coral bleaching occurs when the special symbiotic relationship between the coral animal and the microscopic algae that live within the coral tissue becomes stressed,” Dr Carroll said.

He and Dr Dalton have undertaken a study into the health of the coral, with support from the NSW Marine Park Authority, which is being funded by a research grant from the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority.

The study will further the understanding of the distribution of Lord Howe Island’s near shore reefs; determine the full extent of the 2010 coral bleaching and evaluate the recovery capacity of the coral community.

“The coral reef at Lord Howe Island is globally significant because of its unique combination of tropical, subtropical and temperate species so the recovery of many corals is very good news.”



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