Current conditions on the Reef
Each summer, we assess the health of reefs, as this time of the year poses a greater risk of coral bleaching, extreme weather and flooding.
Stressful conditions can lead to coral disease outbreaks, while poor water quality can also lead to greater numbers of coral eating crown-of-thorns starfish.
Conditions on the Great Barrier Reef remain neutral according to the Bureau of Meteorology:
- The El Niño-Southern Oscillation is within the neutral range, indicating neither drought nor wet season generally associated with El Niño or La Niña conditions. This is set to continue throughout autumn 2014.
- Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean have generally been near average.
- A near average level of cyclone activity (four cyclones in eastern Australia) is forecast for this season. So far two tropical cyclones (tropical cyclone Dylan and tropical cyclone Edna) have occurred in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
- An average rainfall season is forecast for most of eastern Australian from February to April 2014.
- Flood plumes will be influenced by the level of rainfall received in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area - since October 2013 the catchment has experienced a low to average level of rainfall, a pattern set to continue until March 2014.
Coral reef health reports
Together with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and the Eye on the Reef monitoring network, we've carried out 489 reef health and impact surveys across 54 reefs on the Great Barrier Reef since 1 December 2013.
Most (79 per cent) of these surveys were completed in the Cairns-Cooktown region, and the majority of the remainder in the Mackay-Capricorn region.
Of all the surveys, 56 per cent recorded healthy coral reefs with no impacts, 30 per cent had one type of impact and another 14 per cent recorded more than one impact.
Predation (mainly by crown-of-thorns starfish) was seen in 34 per cent of the surveys.
Some signs of coral stress, such as low-level coral bleaching and disease, were also evident in three per cent of surveys. Signs of low level coral damage could be seen in approximately 19 per cent of surveys.
In most cases the damage was attributed to anchors, marine animals or adverse weather conditions.
Initial reports indicate only low levels of minor damage to coral reefs as a result of tropical cyclones Dylan and Edna.
We are continuing to assess the impact, however neither cyclone is expected to have caused any significant damage.
Want to help us keep an eye on the Great Barrier Reef this summer? Find out more about our programs and how you can get involved.
A Vulnerability Assessment: of the issues that could have far-reaching consequences for the Great Barrier Reef.
Current Conditions: Environmental and climatic forecasts for the Great Barrier Reef