Antonio Manaytay – Fourth Estate Contributor
Queensland, Australia (4E) – All is not lost for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as researchers had found the heart of its resiliency despite the extensive damage it suffered from coral bleaching and starfish predation.
The resiliency of the iconic barrier, according to a research published on November 28 in the journal PLOS Biology, is largely dependent on some 100 reefs connecting it to other reefs downstream with the potential of providing the coral larvae that helped the barrier reef to regenerate instead of wasting away.
These 100 reefs, the study said, function like the “cardiovascular system” of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the largest coral ecosystems in the world composed of over 3800 individual reefs.
“Finding these 100 reefs is a little like revealing the cardiovascular system of the Great Barrier Reef,” study’s author Peter Mumby, a professor at the University of Queensland, said.
“Although the 100 reefs only make up 3 percent of the entire GBR, they have the potential to supply larvae to almost half of the entire ecosystem in a single year,” he explained.
The 100 reefs, according to the new study, had fulfilled the criteria to promote coral recovery: lying in cool areas, located in areas that can supply larvae or fertilized eggs, and should not spread the crown-of-thorns starfish larvae.
The GBR had suffered from coral bleaching for the last two years. Other disturbances such as starfish predation had also severely damaged it.
“The presence of these well-connected reefs on the Great Barrier Reef means that the whole system of coral reefs possesses a level of resilience that may help it bounce back from disturbances,” research lead author Dr. Karlo Hock said.
“Unfortunately, these findings by no means suggest that the Great Barrier Reef corals are safe and in great condition,” Dr. Hock pointed out.
“Indeed, the fact that the study only identified around a hundred of these reefs across the entire 2300-kilometer length of the massive GBR emphasizes the need for both effective local protection of critical locations and reduction of carbon emissions in order to support this majestic ecosystem,” he said.
While the study suggests the need to focus on these well-connected reefs and monitor their overall health condition to protect the GBR the whole coral ecosystem is still vulnerable to the impacts of other environmental hazards.
“Saving the GBR is possible but requires serious mitigation of climate change and continued investments in local protection,” Professor Mumby said.
He said more research is needed to determine the “extent the GBR will benefit from replenishment by these 100 reefs” to the whole ecosystem.
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