Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, was hit hard recently by Cyclone Yasi and record setting flooding. Hundreds of kilometers of the reef lost large chunks of coral. Scientists hope the majority of the damaged coral was of the Staghorn variety, which regrows rapidly.
While cyclones and coastal flooding are key components of a reef’s life-cycle, changes in the volume and water quality of fresh water run-off could put the Great Barrier Reef at greater risk. Scientists fear that increasing levels of toxic run-off in water that makes it out to sea could start a downward spiral of destruction for reefs. Nick Heath of the World Wildlife Fund warns that, “coral can’t really compete with the sort of pollution being generated”.
In spite of these concerns, the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority believes that damaged portions of the reef can make a significant recovery in five or ten years. However, they point out that the full extent of the damage to the reef is still unknown.
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