A team of researchers on a NESP TWQ Hub-funded project have just returned from investigating signs of recovery on 14 reefs between Townsville and Cairns in the wake of the severe mass bleaching event in March this year.
The aim of these surveys, carried out by researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, is to understand whether differences in water quality impact levels of bleaching and recovery.
The team repeated underwater surveys from the height of the bleaching event and resampled six coral species. While the data still remain to be analysed, the team observed significant recovery, particularly on the inshore reefs.
Project Lead Dr Line Bay said the surveys were encouraging, but it’s not all good news.
“The majority of coral colonies on the inshore reefs have regained their colour and some of them even appear to have developing eggs in their tissues,” she said.
“However some of the more sensitive corals were very hard to find even in areas where they were abundant in March.”
Further analysis of tissue samples should reveal if water quality impacts the level of stress experienced from bleaching, and the physiological mechanisms of recovery.
Understanding and promoting coral recovery is a new priority for the next round of research projects to be funded through the Tropical Water Quality Hub.