A carol reef in Pilbara region of Western Australia up to 400 years old has been found bleached, according to scientists who stumbled across the decimation by accident.
The CSIRO’s Dr Russ Babcock says his team was scouting survey sites when they came across the bleaching of a pocket of ancient coral heads.
“We suspect this bleaching event was due to marine heatwaves that occurred in the region over the past few summers, and to see it up close was sobering,” said Dr Babcock.
“But to offset this loss, some reefs only a short distance north showed much less damage and will continue to contribute to a healthy ecosystem.”
Dr Babcock and the team are preparing for a health and well-being check up of World Heritage-listed reef ecosystems in the Pilbara.
The 300km coastline to be surveyed during the five year, $12 million Pilbara Marine Conservation Partnership includes two major marine parks and also areas under development for ports, and oil and gas extraction and processing.
The partnership, a joint venture led by CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship and the University of Western Australia, will be the first whole of ecosystem study for the region’s unique marine environment.
“Our research will help government and industry balance the environmental sustainability of the Pilbara with its increasing broad sector use,” Dr Babcock said.
The study is funded by the Gorgon Project’s Net Conservation Benefit Fund, which is administered by the Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife.
The Gorgon Project is operated by Chevron.
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