SYDNEY – Coral reefs need about a decade to recover from the impact of the bleaching phenomena caused by rising ocean temperatures, a scientific study reported on Wednesday.
“We found that the time needed for coral reefs to recover from bleaching is at least 9-12 years – if there is no new disturbance in the meantime, such as a cyclone or re-bleaching,” said Eric Wolanski, a professor at Australia’s James Cook University, in a statement.
Wolanski was part of a team at the Palau International Coral Reef Center that studies bleaching in the coral systems of the Palau archipelago in Micronesia in the Pacific.
He said that almost half of Palau’s corals had undergone bleaching associated with the El Niño phenomenon of 1998.
“By 2001 more than 80 percent of 315 reefs around Palau had only 0-5 percent Acropora coral cover left. But over the next 14 years the western reefs did not have any major disturbance and recovered, which makes them ideal for this kind of study,” said Wolanski.
The experts at James Cook University believe that the time needed by the corals is also linked to different habitats and different species of coral and fauna, according to the statement.
“That means what is present or absent on a given reef system needs to be cataloged and incorporated into planning for its management under climate change,” he said.
Wolanski added that other similar studies on coral reef recovery time in the Great Barrier Reef, located off northeastern Australia and considered the largest reef system in the world, are hampered as the site is affected by frequent disturbances.
The Great Barrier Reef suffered two consecutive bleaching phenomena in 2016 and 2017 and faces other problems caused by the acidity of its waters and industrial activities in surrounding areas, among others.