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Great Barrier Reef showing signs of regrowth but still under threat


Experts warn the Great Barrier Reef still faces a significant, on-going threat from climate change despite a report showing a rare window of recovery.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science report into the condition of the reef reveals minimal impact from coral bleaching in the past year thanks to a year without damage from heatwaves and tropical cyclones.

Researchers surveyed 127 reefs and found at least 69 had seen an increase in hard coral cover since they were last surveyed.

James Cook University Associate Professor Scott Heron says, however, there is a lot the annual report does not take into account.

"It is very clear to me that the Great Barrier Reef is still under threat from issues related to climate change and to factors of water quality," Prof Heron says.

The improvements come after the Great Barrier Reef experienced its most widespread bleaching event on record early last year.

Prof Heron says the majority of the new coral growth was driven by fast-growing table and branching corals.

But he warns these corals are most vulnerable.

"The branching corals aren't the strong foundational, big massive corals that build the reef.

"So we need to be cautious about getting too excited on what we are seeing here."

However, researchers warn the growth phase does not provide assurances for the long-term survival of the reef which is under "continual pressure".

The report comes just days before UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meets to determine whether the reef’s status should be changed to 'in danger’.

In June, the Committee signalled it would likely change that status.