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National Environmental Science Program's

Tropical Water Quality Hub


Providing innovative research for practical solutions to maintain
and improve tropical water quality from catchment to coast

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Project Spotlight

Project 4.3

Led by Dr Ian McLeod, JCU

Best practice coral restoration for the Great Barrier Reef

As the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) continues to degrade through repeated mass bleaching events, crown-of-thorns starfish and major disease outbreaks, and the impacts of intense cyclones, pressure is growing for direct intervention to assist the recovery of reef-building corals. Decreasing coral cover on the GBR and other Australian reefs has been recognised as a serious problem relatively recently in Australia but follows a global trend, with many overseas reefs now highly degraded. Various types of coral restoration, rehabilitation and assisted recovery projects have been trialled overseas for decades and it makes sense to look at what has and hasn’t worked overseas to determine a range of options that may suit GBR conditions. Some direct interventions to assist coral recovery have been trialled in Australia such as transplanting corals, algae removal to promote coral recovery and larval enhancement promoting direct coral recruitment. In addition, after physical damage from cyclones, ship strikes or dragged anchors, local dive operators and dive clubs (permitted or unpermitted) often attempt to assist the recovery of corals by tipping over flipped tabular corals and reattaching broken branching corals or sea fans. These latter assisted recovery techniques are rarely underpinned by scientific data on coral recovery. A lack of best practice guidelines for these actions limits the chance of success and increases the health and safety risks of these activities. Read more