“We must not be complacent” Scientists warn the GBR could be dead within the next 15 yearsNews Science 

“We must not be complacent”: Scientists warn the GBR could be dead within the next 15 years

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For the first time in 30 years, scientists have found a new species of coral. The discovery came as a scientific team from the Great Barrier Reef Legacy was monitoring the health of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and how corals were responding to the major bleaching events that have befallen the world’s largest living structure. Fittingly, Dr Charlie Veron, known as the “Godfather of Coral” due to his hand in discovering over 20% of the world’s coral species was on board at the time.

The good news didn’t end there however, with Dr Veron pleasantly surprised at the recovery rate of certain coral massifs in North Queensland – the area hit hardest by back-to-back bleaching events. There were another 181 species of healthy coral in the area where the new species was found, mostly Acropora spp, staghorn coral. Whilst the location of the site was held secret for conservation reasons, scientists aboard the research vessel collected samples of the new coral species as well as samples of the surviving staghorns in hopes to uncover how these specific corals survived one of the worst bleaching events in human history.

However, Acropora seems to be one of the only hardy corals to have survived within this area. The expedition noted that apart from that one site, the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef was well and truly devastated, with most coral colonies showing evidence of steady collapse. Dr Veron and his team’s observations have so far corroborated earlier reports: although there are some patches of coral that have shown a remarkable ability to bounce-back, most of the reef remains in a poor state.

The renowned scientist even went out of his way to issue a dire warning:

“I think the Great Barrier Reef could be entirely dead within 15 years, all it needs is a succession of bleaching events like we’ve had in the past couple of years and we won’t have a Great Barrier Reef.”

Dr Veron remains optimistic that there is still a solution to be reached. Outside of global talks and regulations aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions and lowering the rate of global warming, he hopes that these latest coral samples hold the key to saving the Great Barrier Reef.

“Once we know why corals are surviving in one place more than another, we can give them a helping hand. They’re going to need a helping hand. We’ve just got to carry on until that time arrives and hope that we’ve got enough of the Great Barrier Reef left to re-seed, re-populate and regenerate new life”

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