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Monday, July 15, 2024

Images reveal reef damage

IN a sobering discovery, drone imagery has revealed up to 97 per cent of coral is dead at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

The images, taken three months apart, show coral in the process of bleaching in March 2024, and post-bleaching in June 2024.

James Cook University Associate Professor Karen Joyce was part of a team that analysed the condition of the coral. 

“We captured drone mapping data in March over Lizard Island reef, which was heavily affected by coral bleaching.

Our new data from early June reveal upwards of 95 per cent mortality from bleached corals in the past three months,” said Dr Joyce. 

Professor Jane Williamson, Head of the Marine Ecology Group at Macquarie University’s School of Natural Sciences, said the images show an alarming decline in the reef’s health in an area reported to be in good condition at the end of 2023. 

Dr Joyce said that while the bleaching itself was heavily documented by scientists, it wasn’t due to be re-surveyed for another year.

“It is possible that the corals might have recovered. Our data clearly shows this is not the case and the impact is shocking,” said Dr Joyce. 

Dr Joyce said she has been mapping coral for 25 years. 

“It’s devastating to say that this year, my job became so much easier. In the small area we analysed, instead of many thousand live corals, I can count the few remaining on my fingers.”

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Fundraising dinner on the tarmac and Police Dog Bally retires.

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