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Coral Bleaching Strikes Keppel Islands: A Concern for Australia’s Iconic Great Barrier Reef

Coral Bleaching Strikes Keppel Islands: A Concern for Australia's Iconic Great Barrier Reef

Rising Temperatures Threaten Keppel Islands’ Coral

As summer embraces the Great Barrier Reef, James Cook University scientists have sounded the alarm on coral bleaching around the Keppel Islands, near Rockhampton.

Routine surveys conducted by the university’s Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research revealed areas with moderate to severe coral bleaching, sparked by ocean temperatures soaring to 29°C, well above the seasonal average.

Unprecedented Warmth, Unseen Damage

Dr Maya Srinivasan, a scientist from TropWATER, expressed concern, stating, “I have been working on these reefs for nearly 20 years, and I have never felt the water as warm as this.”

Severe bleaching, turning parts of the reef white, and the premature death of some corals were observed during the surveys.

Hope Amidst Crisis

While the prognosis for severely bleached corals is grim, recovery is possible if ocean temperatures stabilise.

The team, despite witnessing distressing scenes, noted that some corals could still recover if temperatures drop in the coming weeks. 

However, the clock is ticking, and sustained high temperatures pose a significant threat to the iconic reef.

Local Impact: Keppel Islands and Beyond

The Keppel Islands, a hotspot for tourists, locals, and recreational fishermen, face heightened vulnerability due to their inshore location.

Dr Srinivasan highlighted the importance of understanding the nuances of impacts and recovery to tailor effective management strategies, considering the island reefs’ high usage.

A Call for Intervention and Understanding

As the monitoring program extends to the far northern Great Barrier Reef, Magnetic Island near Townsville, and the Cumberland Islands offshore from Mackay, researchers aim to unravel insights into recovery rates and fish population dynamics.

Funded by the Australian Government’s #ReefTrust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, this collaborative effort strives to provide crucial information for targeted intervention and management strategies crucial for the preservation of this natural wonder.