SURG research has found a significant number of corals which suffered bleaching in 2016 never recovered.
In 2016 the significant bleaching event resulted in total loss of colour in branching corals located on South Solitary Island and South West Solitary Island.
Over the past year SURG has conducted research trips to monitor the effects of this bleaching event on individual corals and the coral communities. Using underwater photography branching and plate corals have been monitored to assess the ongoing impact of the 2016 warming event.
Over 80% of the branching Pocillopora coral monitored at Sth Solitary and Sth West Solitary died between 2016 and 2017. Plate forming corals fared much better than the once dominant branching type with less than 10% coral loss on the dominant Tubinaria species.
The photos above show the result of the 2016 bleaching. The first shows the bleached Pocillopora coral in May 2016 and the next photo how this same coral was dead a year later.
Whilst ocean temperatures are generally warmer in the north of the marine park, branching and plate forming corals that occur on reefs adjacent to Nth West Solitary and Nth Solitary Islands fared much better than the southern corals. Only 10% to 30% of monitored branching corals died as a result of warm ocean waters with minimal impact of the plate forming corals at these reefs.