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Townsville sector reefs continue to improve since Cyclone Yasi – latest monitoring report now available

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08 June 2016


Coral cover was very high on Rib Reef that had the highest coral cover recorded since systematic manta tow surveys began in 1986. Coral cover across the sector was variable.

Mid and outer-shelf reefs within the Townsville Sector of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) continue to show signs of recovery, 5 years after suffering significant damage during Cyclone Yasi in 2011. The latest Long Term Monitoring Program (LTMP) surveys report that the key coral reef health indicator, live coral cover, has increased on 11 out of the twelve reefs surveyed since the previous surveys in 2014 and 2015. Coral cover on seven of these reefs is the highest it has ever been since they were first surveyed by manta tow, over 30 years ago.

Despite this upward trend, the surveyed reefs did not escape recent warm ocean conditions that recently affected the Great Barrier Reef. Bleaching was apparent on all reefs and was highest on the outer reefs, where between 10 to 30% of the coral community has bleached. This level of bleaching is consistent with other reefs surveyed in the central sector of the GBR. Coral loss (mortality) as a result of bleaching was, at the time of the surveys, very low.

While not currently experiencing crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) outbreaks, low numbers of the coral-eating starfish were present on the reefs in this sector. Small adult COTS were seen on 2 of the twelve reefs surveyed, which indicates the starfish are recruiting to the area. COTS numbers are expected to increase in coming years, as reefs to the north are currently experiencing outbreaks. COTS outbreaks typically move southward along the Great Barrier Reef.

For detailed information, read the latest report for the Townsville sector here.

The AIMS Long Term Monitoring Program has been collecting valuable information from across the Great Barrier Reef for over 3 decades. It provides a large-scale, systematic overview of changes to the coral communities of the Great Barrier Reef, and is used by scientists and management to better understand coral reef dynamics over time.

Visit here for more information about AIMS monitoring programs on the Great Barrier Reef and other tropical marine ecosystems.