Great Barrier Reef coral. Picture: Brett Claxton
Great Barrier Reef coral. Picture: Brett Claxton

The unusually good news for coral

CORAL, like most living organisms, can recover from stressful situations if given the chance, according to master reef guide Natalie Lobartolo.

While there was a small bleaching event in October last year on the reef flat, Ms Lobartolo said they hadn't witnessed any wide-scale mass bleaching in years.

She said coral bleaching was a response to stress and the October event may have been the result of extremely low tides, combined with an overnight rainfall event.

"The good news is that if a coral or part of the reef bleaches, it doesn't necessarily means it's dead or going to die," Ms Lobartolo said.

"If the stress goes away, as it did in this case, then the coral can recover, as it also did in this case."

Corals face a range of threats; from higher temperatures to increased CO2 in the atmosphere changing ocean chemistry.

"As corals extract minerals from the water to build their skeleton, made of calcium carbonate, this changing chemistry can make it much harder for corals to be able to construct their skeletons and build the beautiful structures we love to enjoy, and which create valuable homes for over 25 per cent of all marine life," she said.

Ms Lobartolo said coral can become stressed by pH, salinity, temperature, UV.

"Over time, reefs have changed and evolved, but the current changes they are facing due to human activities are unprecedented, compounding and occurring so rapidly, that corals struggle to evolve and adapt quickly enough," she said.

"We need to reduce the pressures, pull back the stress to give the corals the ability, time and space to adapt and recover.

"Reefs are incredibly resilient natural systems and if given ample opportunity to bounce back and recover, they will."