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Scientists test Moreton Bay as coral 'lifeboat'
Date:7/26/2010

stable and to decline when El Nino and other disturbances made themselves felt."

The Moreton Bay corals have been in an expansionary phase during the last 400 years, initially dominated by the branching Acropora corals but, since the Bay's catchment was cleared and settled, these have died back leaving mainly slow-growing types of coral.

"Under climate change we expect winters to be warmer and sea levels to rise and both of these factors will tend to favour the expansion of corals in Moreton Bay," Matt says.

"However this expansion of corals may not occur unless we make a major effort to improve water quality in the Bay, by not allowing effluent, polluted runoff or sediment to enter it, and also by regrowing mangrove forests and seagrass beds within the Bay. "

The team concludes that Moreton Bay's potential as a good 'lifeboat' for corals is limited by four major factors:

  • It is highly sensitive to what the 2 million residents of its catchment do that affects it
  • It presently has very few branching corals left
  • The area on which corals can grow is limited, both naturally and by human activity
  • Finally, the historical record suggests the Bay is only a good coral refuge about half of the time.

Matt says that there is nevertheless scope for changes in the management of the Bay and its surrounding catchments that can improve its suitability as a coral environment. "The reefs of today don't look anything like they did in the past, so it's really a question of 'What sort of coral reef do you want?'," he says.

However there needs to be a clearer scientific understanding of the drivers that have caused corals to boom and bust within the Bay over the past seven millennia before we can be sure it is worthwhile attempting to make Moreton Bay a 'lifeboat' for the GBR, he cautions.

Matt noted that there are very few suitable coral habitats south of the southern end of the G
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Contact: Matt Lybolt
61-073-365-9001
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
Source:Eurekalert

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