The Great Barrier Reef has suffered the most from warming temperatures on Earth and scientist hope they have discovered a way to help repair and rebuild the damaged reef. Researchers from the University of Queensland, CSIRO, Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Sheffield have identified a group of “source” reefs that could form the basis of a life support system in the reef chain.
These source reefs would help repair the damage that has been caused by bleaching and over fishing. When over fishing occurs, marine species are left without a natural predator. That species is allowed to grow into larger than normal numbers. Species such as the starfish are booming and causing damage to the reefs.
The study conducted by the researchers found 112 “robust source reefs” which had “ideal properties to facilitate recovery” of others by spreading fertilized eggs to replenish other ideas. These 112 source reefs make up just 3% of the entire Great Barrier Reef, which is the world’s largest living structure.
To narrow down the reefs that fit their criteria, researchers looked for reefs that are well connected to other reefs, be more resilient to coral bleaching and be less susceptible to crown-of-thorne starfish outbreaks.
The Great Barrier Reef has seen 25% of its reef die through bleaching events and that number is expected to rise. With the potential to completely lose the world’s largest living structure, it is vital that these findings be immediately applied in the field to restore and rebuild as much of the reef as possible.
To understand how connected reefs are, they used ocean circulation simulation to model the connectivity of the reefs larvae. Scientists have only recently been able to understand how connected the reefs are by ocean currents, according to Prof Peter Mumby, from the University of Queensland’s school of biological sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies.
“The Great Barrier Reef is about the size of Italy and at any given time there are patches that have been damaged and patches that are pretty good, so it has an ability to heal itself if you like.”
“It’s not perfect,” Mumby said. “There are areas in the northern barrier reefs where there are relatively few of these reefs identified.
The researchers will attempt to use the source reefs from the south in the north, but there are doubts whether this will work.
Dr Andrew Lenton, principal research scientist at CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, said the report identified what was needed to maximize the capacity of coral to recover, including the protection of the robust reefs.
“It also recognizes that this alone is not likely to be sufficient to ensure the longer-term viability of the Great Barrier as a whole and will need to be coupled with climate mitigation, local management and active management such as coral re-seeding.”
The Great Barrier Reef provides food for million of people and attracts 2 million annual visitors to Australia. If the world is to lose the reef system, the loss economically would be devastating, not mention we would lose would of the wonders of our world. The news that there are reefs to source is very encouraging, but there is a lot of work which needs to be done yet