Good signs: Dr Steve Dalton and Dr Andrew Carroll assess bleached coral in the Lord Howe Island Marine Park.
Good signs: Dr Steve Dalton and Dr Andrew Carroll assess bleached coral in the Lord Howe Island Marine Park.

Island corals recovering

SCIENTISTS investigating a significant coral bleaching event at Lord Howe Island last year, have found signs of recovery in affected areas of the world’s southern-most coral reef.

Warmer than usual ocean temperatures and a period of light winds and little cloud cover led to mild to moderate coral bleaching in the island’s reef system.

Southern Cross University National Marine Science Centre researchers say there have been encouraging signs of coral recovery at sites observed during their trip to the island in September.

“Coral bleaching occurs when the special symbiotic relationship between the coral animal and the microscopic algae that live within the coral tissue becomes stressed and disassociates,” Dr Andrew Carroll said.

Researchers visited the island on three occasions last year and will return again in March.

“During the height of the bleaching event in March 2010, bleaching levels ranged between 60 and 95 per cent at sites within the lagoon, with some minor bleaching, less than 30 per cent, on the outer slopes and deeper reefs,” Dr Steve Dalton said.

“During May and September coral pigment recovery was obvious with bleaching levels declining by 30 per cent at most sites within the lagoon.”

However, he said there had been complete coral mortalities in the most affected of the shallow water sites.



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