The Colors of Hope

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef showed the highest coral cover in 36 years, according to a new report that suggested there is hope for the recovery of the fragile UNESCO World Heritage site, CBS News reported.

The Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS) released a report Thursday saying that the average hard cover in the Reef’s northern and central regions had increased to 36 percent and 33 percent, respectively, in 2022, up from 27 percent each in 2021.

AIMS scientists said the increase was driven by the fast-growing Acropora corals. They cautioned, however, that the corals are fragile and that more disturbances could reverse the recovery.

The report also raised concerns over the coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef’s southern region, noting that it remains vulnerable to common disturbances such as mass bleaching events. These happen when coral, in response to stressful conditions like heat, loses its pigments and symbiotic algae, turns white and is fragile enough to die.

Despite some positive findings, AIMS warned that the frequency of mass bleaching events has reached “uncharted territory” since it began monitoring the reef 36 years ago.

“Every summer the reef is at risk of temperature stress, bleaching and potentially mortality, and our understanding of how the ecosystem responds to that is still developing,” said AIMS CEO Paul Hardisty.

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