[Coral-List] Great Barrier Reef is rapidly losing coral

Katharina Fabricius K.Fabricius at aims.gov.au
Thu Oct 4 17:32:16 EDT 2012

Dear Tracy,

the Reuters article is a popular summary of the research; the original research by De'ath et al.  is open access, downloadable at


It is not only the 5 billion dollars income from the GBR to the Australian economy that is at stake here, but it is the ecological integrity of the Great Barrier Reef that is also at stake. We are fortunate that we now have 27 years of consistent monitoring data from the GBR. John Bruno has shown before that many reef systems around the world are not faring any better than the GBR, but most don't have the data to show such trends and their causes.

The article outlines what needs to be done to try to halt and reverse the observed decline in coral cover. These are, 
* globally: increasing efforts to cut CO2 emissions (no surprises here), and 
* regionally: increasing efforts to cleaning up water quality, and developing additional new ways to actively intervene against crown-of-thorns. 

That may sound motherhoody, but the data show that there is still resilience left in the system, and coral cover would have actually increased by 0.89% per year during the observation period if it wasn't for COTS. So in this case, taking local/regional action can really make a difference. We can't easily stop the cyclones and bleaching, which have caused 48% and 10% of the observed losses; to reduce climate pressures will require global actions to rapidly decarbonise our economies. But in the meantime, our hope is that through joint scientific efforts we may be able to find a way to reduce the frequency of COTS outbreaks which have caused 42% of the observed coral losses. Potential solutions are to regionally minimise summer phytoplankton biomass (food for COTS larvae) through significant reductions in nutrients washed off the land, and possibly if we'll manage to find some effective means of direct intervention. Also, allowing fish stocks to return to levels where the fishes are hungry and willing to eat all sorts of spiny, toxic and bad-tasting invertebrates would help to restore food webs hence ecological balances (no surprises here either!), - probably especially if that happened in areas where COTS outbreaks tend to originate in the first place. 

These are big tasks, and of course they are no excuse to not act against CO2 pollution at the same time. But if we don't face these tasks and if the present trend continues, we may lose again half of what's left of corals on the GBR (presently a mean of 13.8% cover) within the next decade.


Katharina Fabricius

Australian Institute of Marine Science (www.aims.gov.au)
PMB 3, Townsville Qld 4810, Australia


Message: 2
Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2012 16:03:53 -0700 (PDT)
From: Dean Jacobson <atolldino at yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Great Barrier Reef is rapidly losing coral;
        coral cover could fall to ~5% in the next decade
To: Tracy Gill <tracy.gill at noaa.gov>,   coral list
        <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
        <1349305433.47004.YahooMailNeo at web31809.mail.mud.yahoo.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1

Sadly, I've been expecting, waiting for this tragic process on the GBR?to play itself out.? For years I have anticipated that, once the high profile regions degrade,?more attention will finally be paid to neglected, underappreciated?reef systems that remain healthy, such as the Marshall Islands (almost as pristine as the Line Islands); currently the Marshalls are getting almost no dive tourism $, but once people realize it may be the best of what is left, a surge of such tourism may help locals begin to take better care of their reefs.? Majuro, as I have shown, has degraded castrastrophically in recent decades, but other atolls (23 of them)?are enchantingly intact and healthy.? World travelors are suprised by how pristine they are, the best that is left.? And we have live-aboards on Majuro!
Dean Jacobson
College of the Marshall Islands

From: Tracy Gill <tracy.gill at noaa.gov>
To: coral-list coral-list <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa..gov>
Sent: Thursday, October 4, 2012 3:51 AM
Subject: [Coral-List] Great Barrier Reef is rapidly losing coral; coral cover could fall to ~5% in the next decade

Great Barrier Reef is rapidly losing coral; coral cover could fall to ~5%
in the next decade - see story:

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