Australia: Sydney Harbour reefs showing 'signs of recovery' following coral bleaching event, researcher says

Liv Casben ABC News 30 Aug 16;

Marine scientists say coral that was damaged by a bleaching event in Sydney Harbour earlier this year are "starting to show good signs of recovery".

For the past 12 months a team of marine scientists has been examining the little known coral reefs of Sydney to try and understand more about coral survival.

The research project is a collaboration between the University of Technology Sydney, Macquarie University and the Sea Life Trust.

Marine scientist and PHD student Samantha Goyen, who is leading the research, said the coral they have examined over two sites had made a remarkable turnaround after the recent bleaching event, which followed hotter than normal water temperatures.

"This is the first time, to our knowledge, there has been such an event in Sydney Harbour, so we monitored that and now we are at the point the corals are starting to show good signs of recovery," Ms Goyen said.

She said the research could "teach us a lot about coral resilience and coral survival into the future with a changing climate".

Ms Goyen is hoping the information could help to inform scientists about other reefs elsewhere, as they work to understand what enabled the reef to recover.

"Back in April, we found up to 45 per cent of corals at the sites had bleached, now all the tagged colonies that we are permanently monitoring are showing signs of recovery," she said.

Sydney's coral might hold vital information for reefs elsewhere

Coral scientist Dr Alicia Lloyd, from the Sea Life Trust, said the results could be far-reaching.

"The results of this results should be applicable on a broad scale to corals on the Great Barrier Reef and their thermal tolerance and their ability to survive in extreme environments which may be the future to the reef up there," she said.

Dr Lloyd also warned that this year's coral bleaching was a significant environmental event.

"The corals in Sydney have never bleached before that we've known about so this is a warning sign that they're close to their tipping point," she said.

"They've recovered which is great news, good for us, good for the corals, but what's going to happen in the future if temperatures keep rising?"

The research will continue over the next year as scientists try and unlock more of the reefs' secrets.

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