Larry's cool change good for reef

Mar 22, 2006
Coral reef at Heron Island. Photo: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
Coral reef at Heron Island. Photo: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

Cyclone Larry has been a nightmare on land but underwater, it may have helped save the Great Barrier Reef from disaster. University of Queensland coral reef expert Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said Larry's wind had cooled ocean temperatures that had skyrocketed this summer and threatened to bleach the corals of the Reef.

“Cyclones mix the water column and cool things down, so as we move into winter and with cyclones like this, the real threat of a major bleaching event has passed,” Director of UQ's Centre for Marine Studies Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, who first identified widespread coral bleaching at the southern end of the Reef around the Keppel Islands in January, had feared more than 60 percent of the Reef might bleach as it did in 2002.

So far, he said about half of the coral in 1000 square kilometres of inshore reef from Mackay to Hervey Bay had bleached.

Prolonged coral bleaching can lead to coral death and the loss of coral reef habitats for a wide variety of marine life. This is a worry for scientists and reef enthusiasts because the Great Barrier Reef may house more than a million species.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said Cyclone Larry had left its mark on the land but the cyclone had moved too quickly across the reef to cause major damage.

“It was so intense and moved so quickly that it crossed the Great Barrier Reef in a matter of hours.

“In a way it's fortunate that it didn't linger and for that reason it's unlikely that it had major impacts on reef structure but we still need to do underwater surveys.”

He said the latest bleaching was the worst reef event since 2002 when the Reef around Townsville and Cairns was bleached. This time, bleaching only caused distress on the southern Great Barrier Reef.

UQ researchers are teaming up with NASA scientists to find out why different parts of the Reef have bleached in different events.

“It's prompting some very interesting questions about why it was so low on the Reef this year when it was so central in 2002.

“We're starting to do some projects here at UQ that are understanding how oceanography interacts with the geography of the bleaching.”

Source: University of Queensland

Explore further: Image: Training for Sentinel-2A launch

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Image: Training for Sentinel-2A launch

50 minutes ago

On 25 February, the Sentinel-2A Mission Control Team at ESOC, ESA's mission operations centre, Darmstadt, Germany, commenced simulation training for the critical launch and early orbit phase.

Far from home: Wayward cluster is both tiny and distant

17 hours ago

Like the lost little puppy that wanders too far from home, astronomers have found an unusually small and distant group of stars that seems oddly out of place. The cluster, made of only a handful of stars, ...

Why don't we search for different life?

21 hours ago

If we really want to find life on other worlds, why do we keep looking for life based on carbon and water? Why don't we look for the stuff that's really different?

OSIRIS catches glimpse of Rosetta's shadow

21 hours ago

Several days after Rosetta's close flyby of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 14 February 2015, images taken on this day by OSIRIS, the scientific imaging system on board, have now been downlinked to Earth. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.