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As Australia’s lead management agency for the Reef, we closely monitor Reef conditions throughout the year. From May to November each year, we issue regular Reef health reports. Over the summer, we issue weekly public reports on the conditions of the Reef. 

These updates are based on forecasts, water temperature heat mapping, in-water surveys, citizen science and aerial surveys. The current updates are available below, and past Reef health updates are also available.

Reef Snapshot: summer 2021–22

The Reef snapshot: summer 2021-22 provides a concise, easy-to-understand summary of how the Reef has fared over the past summer, what this means for coral and the actions being taken to help coral health.

Map 1 - Great Barrier Reef Aerial Survey - Great Barrier Reef Average Bleaching Scores all categories - Australia - Copyright Commonwealth of Australia (Reef Authority)
Map 1: 2022 Aerial Survey observations of reef community coral bleaching throughout the Great Barrier Reef after the final heat wave from 12-23 March 2022. A total of 719 reefs were surveyed by a combination of helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft. Categories are described in the AIMS Standard Operating Procedure.

The Great Barrier Reef’s waters warmed early in December 2021, exceeding historical summer maximums that typically occur in the hottest summer months.  

Ocean temperatures continued to accumulate heat throughout the summer until early April 2022, with three distinct heat waves increasing thermal stress throughout the Central and Northern Great Barrier Reef.

This prolonged heat exposure led to a mass bleaching of coral across the Great Barrier Reef; the fourth to occur in seven years.

Unusually, this was the first mass bleaching event to occur under La Niña conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increased reports of coral bleaching prompted Reef-wide aerial surveys in the second half of March 2022 to assess the extent of coral bleaching.

  • Aerial surveys were conducted by trained observers from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
  • A total of 719 reefs were surveyed from the air between the Torres Strait and the Capricorn Bunker Group in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
  • Of these, 654 reefs (91 per cent) exhibited some bleaching. Coral bleaching observed from the air was largely consistent with the spatial distribution of heat stress accumulation, with a greater proportion of coral cover bleached on reefs that were exposed to the highest accumulated heat stress this summer.
  • The 2022 Aerial Survey Map illustrates the variation in bleaching observed across the Reef in the latter half of March.

Results by region

Northern region - includes coral reefs from the tip of Cape York down to Lizard Island and Cape Tribulation:

The pattern of shallow-water coral community bleaching as seen from the air varied from minor (1-10 per cent coral cover bleached) to severe (61-90 per cent bleached), with severity generally increasing from the northern tip of Cape York down towards Princess Charlotte Bay. Coral cover and the community composition were important factors influencing community bleaching severity through this region, with many reefs dominated by temperature tolerant massive Porites, which did show signs of bleaching at the more impacted sites in southern Princess Charlotte Bay.

Central region - includes reefs from Cape Tribulation, south to the Whitsundays.

The onset of coral bleaching around the Townsville region was captured during a preliminary aerial survey of 43 reefs in early February 2022, after a prolonged period of thermal stress. These preliminary surveys found 87 per cent of reefs exhibited minor to moderate bleaching (11-30 per cent bleached).

Reef-wide surveys in the second half of March found the pattern of reef community bleaching, as seen from the air, increased in severity compared to early February, following additional heat stress. Community bleaching ranged from major (31-60 per cent bleached) to extreme (>90 per cent bleached) on the shallow parts of reefs from Cooktown to the Whitsundays.

The most severe bleaching occurred on both inshore and offshore reefs throughout this region. Inshore, mid and outer-shelf reefs between Lizard Island and Townsville had a higher abundance of tabular Acropora corals on the shallow reef flats and crests, compared to the Northern and Southern regions.

Southern region - includes reefs from the Pompey Reef area down to the Capricorn-Bunker area and out to Swain Reefs.

Within the southern region, bleaching was highly variable, reflecting the boundary of lower heat stress exposure. Some shallow-water coral communities in the southernmost parts of the Reef exhibited no bleaching (around the Capricorn Bunker Group), with others further north exhibiting major to severe community bleaching offshore Mackay.

Image below: 4 February 2022 Townsville Aerial Survey Map 2

Great Barrier Reef aerial surveys as of 4 February 2022 - Great Barrier Reef - Copyright Commonwealth of Australia - (Reef Authority)
Map 2: Early onset of bleaching in the Townsville region assessed with aerial survey observations of reef community following initial reports from in water observation. Aerial survey conducted 4 February 2022.

 

The surveys confirm a mass bleaching event, with coral bleaching observed at multiple reefs in all regions. This is the fourth mass bleaching event since 2016 and the sixth to occur on the Great Barrier Reef since 1998.

In 2022, 60 per cent of the total Reef area experienced heat stress capable of causing coral bleaching (>4°C-weeks-<8 °C-weeks). Compared to 2016 and 2017, a smaller percentage of reefs experienced heat stress with Degree Heating Week values above 8 °C-weeks in 2022.

Surveys were conducted after the final heat wave in March 2022, however the coral colony response to heat stress can be prolonged and bleaching may progress and recovery processes will occur over the next six to eight months.

It is important to note that bleached coral is stressed but still alive. As water temperatures cool, bleached corals may regain their colour and survive this stress event, as happened in 2020 when there was very low coral mortality associated with a mass bleaching event.

As outlined in the Great Barrier Reef Authority’s Position Statement on Climate Change, climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Only the strongest and fastest possible actions to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the risks and limit the impacts of climate change on the Reef. Further impacts can be minimised by limiting global temperature increase to the maximum extent possible and fast-tracking actions to build Reef resilience.

Aerial surveys[1] are an important and reliable method to provide a broad assessment of coral bleaching across the scale of the entire Reef. These surveys are conducted from low flying aircraft, at slow speed, and targeted around low tide.

Trained observers can document the percentage of visible bleached coral (white or fluorescent colours) among the shallow-water coral community on the reef flat and upper-reef slope (in waters less than 6 metres deep). Visually assessing coral reef community bleaching severity involves assigning each area of a reef surveyed to one of six bleaching categories (see map legend).

The NOAA Coral Reef Watch Degree Heating Week product provides an estimation of accumulated heat stress, which can lead to coral bleaching and mortality.

Based on this product and on past mass bleaching events, significant coral bleaching usually occurs when the Degree Heating Week value exceeds 4 °C-weeks. If the Degree Heating Week value exceeds 8 °C-weeks, severe, widespread bleaching is likely and the risk of coral mortality increases.

Aerial surveys were timed to coincide with the peak in accumulated Degree Heating Week and completed within a 12-day period (from 12-23 March, 2022).

Importantly, aerial surveys quantify reef-scale community bleaching severity, as an assessment of how much of the living coral community is bleached – not individual coral colony severity.

In-water surveys provide more detailed information on coral colony health, including the intensity of bleaching (not bleached, partially bleached, or fully bleached) and colony mortality.

In-water surveys also allow assessment of bleaching in deeper water, which is important as bleaching typically lessens in intensity with depth.

In-water surveys on reefs throughout the Great Barrier Reef will be combined with the broad-scale results from the aerial surveys to help document the impacts of this 2022 mass bleaching event.

[1]. The aerial bleaching survey method was developed in 1998, in response to the first ever recorded mass bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef. It continues to be refined and is described in an AIMS Standard Operating Procedure.

 

Map 2: Early onset of bleaching in the Townsville region assessed with aerial survey observations of reef community following initial reports from in water observation. Aerial survey conducted 4 February 2022 - Reef Authority Australia

Map 2: Early onset of bleaching in the Townsville region assessed with aerial survey observations of reef community following initial reports from in-water observation. An aerial survey was conducted 4 February 2022.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, along with our partners, is continuing to monitor conditions across the Marine Park and assess the impact of this summer’s mass bleaching event.

Temperature and rainfall

Above-average air temperatures were experienced in the northern regions of the Reef, while southern regions experienced cooler than average temperatures.

Sea surface temperatures are between -1°C and 1°C on average for this time of year throughout most of the Marine Park. However, there was some warming from north of Cairns to the tip of the Cape York Peninsula of up to 1-2.5 °C above average.

Statewide rainfall for June 2022 was 32% below the long-term average, although a few areas in the north of the state experienced their highest June rainfalls on record (daily and total).

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration report the Marine Park is no longer under bleaching stress.

Reef health

With recent surveys and environmental conditions indicating the mass bleaching event is ending, the extent of recovery versus mortality following accumulated heat stress can only be estimated once the Australian Institute of Marine Science Long-Term Monitoring Program surveys are completed in mid-2023.

For June 2022, seven out of 12 reefs where reef health assessments were completed reported some level of bleaching, all low in extent with severity ranging from bleached upper surface only to recent mortality. Of the 91 Reef Health Impact Surveys performed throughout June, just under 16 per cent recorded coral bleaching.

Crown-of-thorns starfish continue to impact Reef Health across all management areas. The most severe outbreaks are occurring on reefs in the central and southern regions, and with an emerging contingent of Crown-of-thorns identified in the northern region.

Crown-of-thorns Control vessels are continuing their surveillance monitoring and culling operations in the northern, central, and southern management areas.

Reef management

Preliminary assessments indicate that coral mortality will be much lower for this mass bleaching event compared with those in 2016 and 2017. This is not unexpected given the smaller amount of Reef area that was exposed to extreme heat stress, i.e., greater than eight Degree Heating Weeks (DHW).

A degree heating week assists with predictions of impacts from a bleaching event. It is a cumulative measurement of both intensity and duration of heat stress over a 3-month period, which increases the chance of heat stress levels leading to bleaching or mortality when degree heating weeks accumulate.

The Reef Authority continues to work with our partners to monitor the Reef by collecting data with in-water surveys. This information helps us to better understand the effects of this bleaching event and the impacts on individual coral colonies.

We are also continuing our work to protect and strengthen the resilience of the Reef through management actions, such as controlling coral-eating starfish and enforcing compliance on the water to deter illegal fishing.

You can do your bit to help on the water by following zoning rules in the Marine Park and reporting sightings of what is going on across the Reef through the Eye on the Reef App.

Sea surface temperatures are steadily going down as winter settles in.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, along with our partners, is continuing to monitor conditions across the Marine Park and assess the impact of this summer’s mass bleaching event.

Temperature and rainfall

May 2022 was the 5th wettest May on record and the wettest in the last 32 years, with exceptional rainfall over large parts of Queensland.

Sea surface temperatures are 22-26°C south of Townsville and 26-28.5°C north of Townsville and are close to the average for the season throughout most of the Marine Park. However, the Far North has recorded temperatures 1-2°C above average.

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration report the Marine Park is no longer under bleaching stress.

Reef health

With recent surveys and environmental conditions indicating the mass bleaching event is ending, the extent of ‘recovery versus mortality’ following heat stress can only be estimated once the Australian Institute of Marine Science Long-Term Monitoring Program surveys are conducted from September 2022 to April 2023.

For May 2022, 19 out of 23 reefs were reported to have bleached, all of the low extent, with severity ranging from bleached upper surface only to recent mortality. Of the 285 Reef Health Impact Surveys performed throughout May, just under 89 (31 per cent) recorded coral bleaching. This included nine reefs in the Cairns /Cooktown Management area, four reefs in the Townsville/Whitsundays MA and seven reefs in the Mackay/Capricorn MA.

The map of aerial survey bleaching scores of the recent mass bleaching event is available here, along with detailed explanations of the methodology used.

Crown-of-thorns starfish continue to impact Reef health across all management areas. Intensive culling operations continue at various reefs to suppress Crown-of-thorns starfish numbers and protect coral in the Northern, Central and Southern regions.

Particular attention is being made to the Crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak initiation area in the Northern region with increased surveillance and culling to reduce adult Crown-of-thorns starfish numbers and suppress spawning.

Reef management

Preliminary assessments indicate that coral mortality will be much lower for this mass bleaching event compared with those experienced in 2016 and 2017. This is not unexpected given the smaller amount of Reef area that was exposed to extreme heat stress.

The Reef Authority is working with our partners to prioritise a sub-set of reefs for in-water surveys to help us better understand the intensity of this bleaching event and the impacts on individual coral colonies.

We are also continuing our work to protect and strengthen the resilience of the Reef through management actions, such as controlling coral-eating starfish and enforcing compliance on the water to deter illegal fishing.

You can do your bit to help on the water by following zoning rules in the Marine Park and reporting sightings of what is going on across the Reef through the Eye on the Reef App.

As Australia’s lead management agency for the Reef, we monitor Reef conditions very closely throughout the year. From May to November each year, we issue regular Reef health reports. Over summer, we issue weekly public reports on the conditions of the Reef.

These updates are based on forecasts, water temperature heat mapping, in-water surveys, citizen science and aerial surveys. The current updates are available below and past Reef health updates are also available.

In addition to our regular updates, we’ve released: Educational information on coral bleaching.


Weekly Reef Health update –  22 April 2022

Sea surface temperatures continued to decrease across the whole Marine Park during the past week.

The Reef Authority, along with our partners, is continuing to monitor conditions across the Marine Park and assess the impact of this summer’s mass bleaching event.

Temperature and rainfall

Sea surface temperatures are 0–1°C above average throughout the southern half of the Marine Park, and 1–2.5°C in the northern half, but overall temperatures are cooler than those experienced on the Reef in recent months.

A low over the Coral Sea may has developed close to Queensland's tropical east coast, affecting areas from Cooktown to Townsville. Even if this system does not intensify significantly, it is expected to produce heavy rainfall over parts of Queensland's North Tropical Coast District which may continue for much of the coming week.

Reef health

Coral bleaching has been observed across multiple regions of the Marine Park, via in-water surveys completed by our Eye on the Reef network, industry partners and researchers. Surveys have recorded impacts ranging from low to extreme. Completely white colonies and some coral mortality have been observed in areas where heat stress accumulation was the highest.

The results of the recent aerial surveys conducted by the Reef Authority and our partners at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) are being finalised.

Reef management

The Reef Authority is working with our partners to prioritise a sub-set of reefs for in-water surveys to help us better understand the intensity of this bleaching event and the impacts to individual coral colonies.

We are also continuing our work to protect and strengthen the resilience of the Reef through management actions, such as controlling coral-eating starfish and enforcing compliance on the water to deter illegal fishing.

You can do your bit to help on the water by following zoning rules in the Marine Park, and reporting sightings of what is going on across the Reef through the Eye on the Reef app.


Weekly Reef Health update –  15 April 2022

Conditions have remained relatively stable across the Marine Park in the past week, with a slight drop in sea surface temperatures. However, they are still above average for this time of year.

The Reef Authority, along with our partners, is continuing to monitor conditions across the Marine Park to fully assess the impact of this summer’s mass bleaching event.  This includes in-water surveys of the impacts on coral colonies.

Temperature and rainfall

Sea surface temperatures are between 0.5–2°C above average for mid-April throughout most of the Marine Park, but overall these temperatures are cooler than those experienced on the Reef in recent months.

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting temperatures of up to 1°C above average in the northern parts of the Reef, and less than 1°C above average in the southern parts for the latter part of April.

Reef health

Coral bleaching has been observed across multiple regions of the Marine Park, ranging in impact from low to extreme. Completely white colonies and some coral mortality have been observed in areas where heat stress accumulation was the highest.

The results of the recent aerial surveys conducted by the Reef Authority and our partners at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) are being finalised.

Reef management

The Reef Authority is working with our partners to prioritise reefs for in-water surveys to help us better understand the intensity of this summer’s bleaching event, and its impact on individual coral colonies. The full impact of this bleaching event on the Reef will only be known after the next round of Long-term Monitoring Program surveys.

We are also continuing our work to protect and strengthen the resilience of the Reef through management actions, such as controlling coral-eating starfish and enforcing compliance on the water to deter illegal fishing.

You can do your bit to help on the water by following zoning rules in the Marine Park, and reporting sightings of what is going on across the Reef through the Eye on the Reef app.


Weekly Reef Health update – 8 April 2022

Despite the fact that summer is now over a month behind us, the coral bleaching event, and our understanding of it, are still unfolding.

The Reef Authority is working with partners to prioritise a sub-set of reefs for ongoing in-water surveys. These are providing more detailed information about bleaching intensity, mortality and the depth range of bleaching impacts.

As with every summer, the final outcome of this bleaching event in terms of mortality will only be known after the next round of surveys from the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s Long-term Monitoring Program.

Temperature and rainfall

Sea surface temperatures in March were some of the hottest on record since 1900, in the Northern and parts of the central Great Barrier Reef. The southern Reef was also above average but not by as much.

Sea surface temperatures have stabilised over the last week but the monthly average for April is lower than for March, so the temperature anomalies are higher than last week- with anomalies of 1-2°C above average throughout most of the Marine Park. It is unlikely that monsoon conditions will redevelop across northern Australia before the end of the current wet season.  The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting sea surface temperatures of 1-1.5°C above average for areas north of Mackay and 0.8-1°C south of Mackay.

Reef health

In water observations of coral bleaching across multiple regions of the Marine Park vary greatly in severity of bleaching, whether or not mortality is occurring and the depth range over which bleaching is happening. An increasing number of surveys are reporting completely white colonies and coral mortality where heat stress accumulation has been highest through a broad area of the central Reef.

Reef management

You can do your bit to help by following zoning rules when out in the Marine Park, and reporting sightings of what is going on across the Reef through the Eye on the Reef app.


Weekly Reef Health update – 1 April 2022

Temperatures across the Reef have moderated and remain lower and more stable than the first couple of weeks of March, which saw heatwave conditions.  Last week the Reef Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) concluded aerial surveys and confirmed a mass bleaching event on the Reef.

Bleaching was observed at multiple reefs in all four management areas of the Reef, which is largely consistent with the spatial distribution of the heat stress experienced over summer. It is important to note that bleached coral is stressed but still alive. If conditions moderate, bleached corals can recover from this stress.

The Reef Authority is now working with its partners to conduct in water surveys to complement the aerial surveys.  This will provide more detailed information about bleaching intensity, mortality and depth range of bleaching impacts.With most of the Marine Park continuing to experience the effects of significant heat stress, localised weather patterns will remain critical in determining the overall extent and severity of coral bleaching.

Temperature and rainfall

Sea surface temperatures across the Reef remain up to one degree above average for this time of year. The areas between Innisfail, north of Townsville, and Mackay having accumulated the most heat stress over summer.

The La Niña weather pattern has passed its peak but its influence will persist until late autumn. While tropical lows are still developing around northern Australia they are expected to stay weak.  The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting sea surface temperatures will remain between 0.6─1°C above average into early April around Townsville and Mackay, while temperatures in the Far North and the Cairns region are expected to remain about 1─1.5°C above average.

Reef health

The Reef Authority and AIMS have completed aerial surveys covering about 750 reefs from   the Torres Strait to the Capricorn Bunker Group. The data from these surveys is being analysed, however preliminary observations indicate most reefs surveyed had bleached coral.  Early results from in-water monitoring are variable.  Some early mortality has been observed in areas where heat stress accumulation has been the greatest, while in others areas the bleaching is not as intense and corals are expected to recover in the next few weeks.

Reef management

The Reef Authority is working with its partners to prioritise reefs for in-water surveys to help better understand the intensity of this bleaching event, and the impacts to individual coral colonies. We are continuing to work to protect and strengthen the resilience of the Reef through our management actions, such as controlling coral-eating starfish and enforcing compliance on the water to deter illegal fishing.

You can also do your bit to help on the water by following zoning rules in the Marine Park, and reporting sightings of what is going on across the Reef through the Eye on the Reef app.

Reef Health update – 25 March 2022

The Reef Authority, together with our partners at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, have completed aerial surveys across a representative sample of 750 reefs on the Great Barrier Reef. Aerial surveys are a standard method which provide the best picture of the full spatial extent of bleaching severity at many reefs across a large, representative area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The bleaching observed from the air was largely consistent with the spatial distribution of the heat stress experienced. Coral bleaching has been observed at multiple reefs in all four management areas (Far Northern, Cairns–Cooktown, Townsville–Whitsunday and Mackay–Capricorn), confirming a mass bleaching event, the fourth since 2016 and despite La Niña conditions.

It is important to note that bleached coral is stressed but still alive. If conditions moderate, bleached corals can recover from this stress, as was the case in 2020 when there was very low coral mortality associated with a mass bleaching event. Weather patterns over the next couple of weeks continue to remain critical in determining the overall extent and severity of coral bleaching across the Marine Park.

Temperature and rainfall

Sea surface temperatures have cooled in the past fortnight and are now less than 0.5°C above average throughout most of the Marine Park. Temperatures at some inshore areas around Cairns, and southern areas around Mackay were below average for this time of year. However, the Bureau of Meteorology’s model forecasts sea surface temperatures will remain close to 1 to 1.5°C above average for the rest of the month, with the exception of the areas south of Mackay which are expecting temperatures of about 0.4 to 1°C above average. The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) anticipates the heat stress will dissipate in most of the Marine Park by end of April.

Reef health

The bleaching across the Marine Park is variable, which is consistent with the levels of heat stress experienced across the Reef this summer. In the Far North, bleaching is variable between reefs and ranges from minor to severe. In the Northern and Central regions bleaching is mostly severe and we observed some mortality.

Reefs in the south have mostly minor bleaching. Some of the high coral cover reefs in this region had no visible bleaching at all. Mass bleaching events do not affect every reef, and even those reefs affected are not all equally affected. The intensity of bleaching varies between different reefs and different locations on a single reef, influenced by what type of coral is growing, depth and currents, and the level of heat stress experienced.

Reef management

The Reef Authority, along with our partners at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, is continuing to analyse data gathered over the past fortnight, however aerial surveys can only reliably observe shallow corals, down to about five metres. As such we are also conducting in-water surveys at selected reefs to get a better idea of the depth profile of bleaching.

We are working hard, along with our partners, to protect and strengthen the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef through our management actions, such as controlling coral-eating starfish and enforcing on-water compliance to deter illegal fishing. The Reef remains a vibrant and beautiful ecosystem. Impacts from climate change and extreme weather are a reminder of the importance of global greenhouse gas emissions reduction and strong marine management actions that support the resilience of this magnificent living ecosystem. You can also do your bit out on the water by following zoning rules in the Marine Park, and reporting sightings of what is going on across the Reef through the Eye on the Reef app.

 


Weekly Reef Health update – 18 March 2022

The past week has brought cooler temperatures to the Reef bringing an end to the heatwave conditions of late February and early March. Despite this, sea surface temperatures remain above average across most of the Marine Park and are expected to remain so until the end of March. Weather patterns over the next few weeks will be critical in determining the overall extent and severity of coral bleaching across the Marine Park.

The Reef Authority will continue to closely monitor forecast conditions and near real-time climate and weather observations, and will collate in-water and aerial surveillance observations and reports for an up-to-date picture of the Reef.

Temperature and rainfall

During the past week, sea surface temperatures have ranged between 0.5 to 2°C above average throughout the Marine Park. However, parts of the Far North and inshore areas between Townsville and Rockhampton varied between 2 to 4°C above average. Most of the Marine Park has accumulated significant heat stress over the summer, with the central Reef experiencing the highest heat stress accumulation.

There is an increased likelihood of above average cloud and rain across northern Australia in the coming week. The Bureau of Meteorology expects sea surface temperatures will remain close to 1°C above average for the rest of the month.

Reef health

Bleaching has been detected across the Marine Park — it is widespread but variable, across multiple regions, ranging in impact from minor to severe. Most observations of bleaching have been of paling or fluorescing but several locations have whole colonies bleached white. This is consistent with the patterns of heat stress experienced on the Reef this summer. The most heavily impacted reefs are around the Townsville region. There have also been reports of early mortality where heat stress has been the greatest. Corals across the Marine Park remain vulnerable to the ongoing elevated temperatures.

Reef management

The Reef Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science have been conducting aerial surveys in the Far Northern Great Barrier Reef (including Torres Strait) and from just north of Townsville to offshore Bowen. The data from these surveys is being analysed. Aerial surveys across the whole of the Reef are continuing.

The surveys conducted have been concentrated in areas of greatest heat stress, the Central Reef, and the Far North, where information was previously lacking. Aerial surveys have not yet been conducted over the major tourism areas such as Cairns and Port Douglas, as heat stress has been less in these areas, and in water observations suggest corals here have not been severely impacted.

Our Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) Control Program, along with our partners at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, has increased COTS surveillance and culling between Cairns and Mackay. Our management actions, such as controlling coral-eating starfish and enforcing compliance on the water to deter illegal fishing, help protect the Reef and aid recovery from weather events.

You can do your bit to help by following zoning rules when out in the Marine Park, and reporting sightings of what is going on across the Reef through the Eye on the Reef app.

 


Weekly Reef Health update – 11 March 2022

Conditions on the Reef have changed little during the past week, with the heatwave continuing and sea surface temperatures remaining above average across most of the Marine Park. Warmer conditions are expected for the rest of March, and heat is continuing to accumulate across the Marine Park.

Weather patterns over the next few weeks will be critical in determining the overall outcome for the Reef this summer, with coral bleaching already reported in many parts of the Marine Park. The Reef Authority will continue to closely monitor forecast conditions and near real-time climate and weather observations, and will collate in-water and aerial surveillance observations and reports for an up-to-date picture of the Reef.

Temperature and rainfall

Sea surface temperatures are generally about 1 to 1.5°C warmer than average for this time of year throughout most of the Reef, while temperatures of up to 3°C above average are occurring in parts of the central Reef. The hottest temperatures have been recorded around the Townsville region.

Large areas between Innisfail and Rockhampton have accumulated significant heat. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting sea surface temperatures will remain at least 1°C above average across the Marine Park for the rest of the month.

Reef health

Coral bleaching is being reported across multiple regions of the Marine Park, mostly of low to moderate severity. This is consistent with the patterns of heat stress experienced on the Reef this summer. The most heavily impacted reefs are in the Townsville region. Corals in these areas remain vulnerable to the ongoing elevated temperatures.

Reef management

The Reef Authority is preparing to conduct aerial spot checks of coral health in areas of highest heat stress accumulation. Our Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) Control Program, along with our partners at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, has increased COTS surveillance and culling between Cairns and Mackay.

Our management actions, such as controlling this coral-eating starfish and enforcing compliance on the water to deter illegal fishing, help protect the Reef and aid recovery from weather events. You can do your bit to help by following zoning rules when out in the Marine Park, and reporting sightings of what is going on across the Reef through the Eye on the Reef app.

 


Reef Health update – 4 March 2022

Recent heatwave conditions combined with low cloud cover along the central Marine Park have caused a slight increase in sea surface temperatures in the past week, heralding an end to the milder conditions experienced in mid-February.

Given the warmer weather, conditions over the next few weeks will be critical in determining the overall outcome for the Reef this summer, with low to moderate bleaching already reported in many areas of the Marine Park. The Reef Authority will continue to closely monitor forecast conditions and near real-time climate and weather observations, and will collate in-water and aerial surveillance observations and reports for an up-to-date picture of the Reef.

Temperature and rainfall

Sea surface temperatures are generally about 1°C warmer than average for this time of year in  the far northern and southern parts of the Reef, while temperatures range up to 2°C above average for the central parts of the Reef.

Significant heat stress has accumulated in some parts of the Far North, and between Townsville and Rockhampton, with the greatest heat stress impacting around the Townsville region. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting sea surface temperatures to remain above average throughout most of the marine park in the coming weeks.

Reef health

Recent in-water observations are reporting low to moderate severity coral bleaching across multiple regions of the Marine Park. This is consistent with the patterns of heat stress experienced on the Reef this summer, particularly between Cairns and Mackay. Corals in these areas remain vulnerable to the return of warmer conditions.

Reef management

The Reef Authority is preparing for aerial spot checks of coral health around parts of the Far North and Mackay regions. Our COTS Control Program, along with our partners at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, are increasing COTS surveillance and culling capacity between Cairns and Mackay.

Management actions such as controlling the coral-eating predator and enforcing compliance on the water to deter illegal fishing, help protect the Reef and aid recovery from weather events. You can do your bit to help by following zoning rules when out in the Marine Park, and reporting sightings of what is going on across the Reef through the Eye on the Reef app.

 

  • The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) use several categories in their heat stress monitoring for coral reefs:
  • No stress: there is no stress level for corals, no hotspots and no bleaching.
  • Bleaching watch: there is at least one temperature hotspot in the area and marine managers are keeping an eye on this area.
  • Bleaching warning: bleaching is possible, there are several hotspots with elevated temperatures.
  • Bleaching alert level One: significant bleaching is likely, there are multiple hotspots with elevated temperatures.
  • Bleaching alert level Two: the highest level, severe bleaching and significant mortality are likely.
Minor bleaching corals - Commonwealth of Australia (Reef Authority) Johnny Gaskell
Minor bleaching corals - Commonwealth of Australia (Reef Authority) Johnny Gaskell
Aerial photograph of the Great Barrier Reef – © Commonwealth of Australia – (Reef Authority) - Photographer: Johnny Gaskell
Great Barrier Reef coral bommie photograph – Australia - © Commonwealth of Australia – (Reef Authority) - Photographer: Johnny Gaskell
Soft coral photo found on the Great Barrier Reef – © Commonwealth of Australia – (Reef Authority) - Photographer: Johnny Gaskell
Created Tue, 2022-08-23 11:50
Updated 5 Sep 2022
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