The Great Reef Barrier remains threatened as new data shows that hard coral cover reaches a historic low in the northern area and the decline accelerates in the south.
A new report elaborated by the Australian Institute for Marine Science states that the hard coral cover present in the northern regions reaches an average of 14%, which is the lowest number since the first studies began in 1985.
The problem is exacerbated by a series of issues, ranging from coral bleaching caused by the warming water, the spread of crown-of-thorns starfish and savage tropical storms have increased the decline of the hard coral cover by almost 30% in the last five years.
There are also some glimmers of hope as select individual reefs appear to feature healthy communities, and young corals were found across the 2,300 reef system. The current density of juvenile corals infers that the road to recovery remains open if other incidents do not take place in the feature.
The hard coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef reaches historic lows
The overall resilience of the system appears to have increased, but more coral bleaching incidents could compromise the majestic landscape forever.
It is well-known that the northern and central regions of the reef were afflicted by several mass bleaching events in recent years as the temperature of the ocean continues to rise. Within two years, in 2016 and 2017, significant areas were destroyed as the corals died. A study published by a team of experts noted that 30% of the corals died during the 2016 heatwave.
An international panel on climate change warned the governments of the world that up to 99% of the global coral population would disappear if the global temperature will increase by two degrees Celsius in the future.
The southern area of the reef may have escaped the dire consequences of the previous heatwaves, but it is plagued by an outbreak of crown-of-thorns fish, which consume corals and multiply at an accelerated rate.