Hard coral cover stabilises in the North

HARD coral cover in the northern region of the Great Barrier Reef has stabilised, a new report shows.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science's annual Great Barrier Reef Condition Update report shows mixed results for coral cover across the Northern, Central, and Southern Great Barrier Reef regions.

Long Term Monitoring Program leader and ecologist Dr Mike Emslie said this year's report showed hard coral cover continued to decline in the central and southern Great Barrier Reef, while the northern region had stabilised.

In the Northern region, between Cape York and Cooktown, the average coral cover increased slightly from 11 per cent in 2017 to 14 per cent this year.

Some individual reefs in the region had less than 10 per cent coral cover, while others had moderate to high levels.

The current level remains close to the lowest recorded since 1985. However, the report said mean coral cover in the Southern reef region was down from 25 per cent in 2018 to 24 per cent this year and the Central reef was down from 14 per cent in 2018 to 12 per cent this year.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science has monitored the Reef for more than 30 years and holds Australia's largest coastal, ocean and reef-related data sets, providing a continuous record of change in reef communities.

"Our long-term monitoring has shown that 10 years after Tropical Cyclone Hamish caused widespread damage in the southern region, particularly in the Capricorn-Bunkers in 2009, these reefs are still recovering," Dr Emslie said.

He said while there was a return of hard coral cover at some reefs, major disturbances such as crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, cyclones, and coral bleaching events in the past five years had caused a general decline in coral cover across much of the 2300km reef system.

In response to the report the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia said stronger climate action was urgently needed.