It’s rare news for the world-famous reef, which in March underwent its sixth mass bleaching event.
Dr Paul Hardesty, CEO of AIMS, said the findings in the northern and central regions were a sign that corals were still able to recover from the mass bleaching and outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish that feed on coral.
“This means that large increases in hard coral cover can be quickly reversed by disturbances in reefs where Acropora coral predominates,” Emsley said.
Cherry Muddle, the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Great Barrier Reef campaigner, warned that while the report was a sign of progress, the reefs were still at risk.
“While this growth is positive and shows that reefs are dynamic and can be resilient, it does not rule out the fact that reefs are under threat,” Modell told CNN.
Coral reefs in danger
Four out of six mass reef bleaching events have occurred since 2016. The most recent occurred in March of this year, with 91% of surveyed reefs affected by bleaching, according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). This is significantly more prevalent than the previous time, when about a quarter of the corals surveyed showed signs of severe bleaching in 2020.
Bleaching is caused by the water temperature being higher than normal, which leads to a stress reaction from the corals. However, according to GBRMPA scientists, this year’s coral bleaching marked the first time it had occurred during La Niña, a climatic event that typically features cooler-than-normal temperatures across the tropical Pacific.
According to Jodi Romer, associate professor of marine biology at James Cook University in Townsville, the frequency of mass bleaching events is cause for concern.
However, experts say a 43% cut in emissions is still not enough to prevent the worsening effects of climate change and further damage to the Great Barrier Reef.
“In Australia, to do our bit, we really need to cut our emissions reductions by 75% by 2030 and that is to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees which is the minimum for coral survival as we know it,” Muddle told CNN.
“We can create jobs, we can protect coral reefs, if we only adopt clean energy technology, and we stop all new coal and gas development,” she added. “There is momentum in the right direction but we need to see action, like bold action, and we need to see it now.”