Coral Bleaching on the GBR

Ray Berkelmans r.berkelmans at
Thu May 23 22:57:31 EDT 2002

Dear listers

The southern hemisphere summer is now over and the Great Barrier Reef had
another scorcher. Since January, it's been a busy time for bleachers with
in-water and aerial surveys. Yesterday the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Authority, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Cooperative
Research Centre for the GBR World Heritage Area jointly released the results
of their surveys (to date) to the media. For anyone interested, the press
release and map of aerial survey results can be found at:

Essentially we are claiming that the 2002 bleaching event is the worst on
record with just under 60% of the GBR reef area with visible bleaching. This
compares with around 44% in 1998. However, total reef area in the higher
bleaching categories is essentially similar between 98 and 2002. We don't
have a good handle on mortality levels yet. Reefs are still recovering and
some still dying. As with 98, we expect most reefs will recover, however a
small number of reefs (particularly inshore reefs) are showing signs of
widespread mortality. The worst affected reefs are in the central GBR near
the town of Bowen where 80-90% of Acropora dominated communities on a number
of reefs are dead. In-water surveys are continuing over the coming months.
More information on the GBR bleaching event can be found at:

I haven't heard reports of bleaching elsewhere in the southern hemisphere
this summer. I take that as good news. Lets hope the northern hemisphere
reefs are spared too this coming summer!

Ray Berkelmans

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