Teeming with life

One Tree Island has experienced new coral growth.

Teeming with life

New hope for the Great Barrier Reef as island shows remarkable coral growth

Posted on 02.07.2019

At a time when portions of the Great Barrier Reef are being devastated by coral decline, Southern Cross University doctoral researcher Kay Davis has found an island near Gladstone has experienced remarkable coral growth.

One Tree Island was lashed by Cyclone Hamish in 2009, destroying much of the island’s coral.

In the five years following the cyclone, no metabolic recovery was detected on the reef and by 2014 calcification of the coral had declined by 75 per cent.

But things changed dramatically between 2014 and 2017, when Ms Davis and her team at the National Marine Science Centre found the coral system calcification increased four-fold.

“We found that the coral ecosystem has completely recovered from this cyclone event after eight years,” Ms Davis said.

“It wasn’t what we were expecting at all.”

Key points

  • Coral system calcification at One Tree Island increased by 400 per cent between 2014 and 2017, according to new research
  • The findings indicate a complete recovery from devastation wreaked by Cyclone Hamish in 2009
  • Researchers say it gives them hope about the future of the rest of the Great Barrier Reef and the ability of coral to recover from bleaching events

The new research was published this month in Frontiers in Marine Science open-source journal with Ms Davis as the lead author.

Ms Davis had expected the declining health of the reef to continue due to ocean acidification inhibiting coral recovery.

Instead the coral is doing better now than it was when it was first studied in the 1970s.

“Not only is calcification of the reef recovering, there was a visible increase in the amount of coral as well; with coral cover increasing by 30 to 40 per cent.”

‘It’s teeming with life here’

Located just north of One Tree Island, Heron Island is a small coral cay that thrives off reef tourism.

Marine biologist Rachael Jones has been the resident naturalist guide on the island for more than three years.

“We haven’t had any significant bleaching or coral disease because we’re on the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef,” she said.

“I just keep seeing diversity of life here everyday because we’re a green zone — you can’t fish, you can’t take anything, everything’s protected by law.

“That’s when you see ecosystems thrive.”

Melissa Martin and Erin Semmler
ABC News





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