Warmer than average summer is stressing coral
THE warm ocean off the coast from Bundaberg is abundant with marine life, from turtles to colourful fish and a beautiful array of coral.
The diving at Barolin Rocks and north to Hoffman Rocks is spectacular and there no need for anything more than a snorkel set to see it.
But there's a secret hiding below the surface.
A warmer than average summer means there is a chance the corals may start to feel the effects of coral bleaching.
A Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority spokesperson confirmed a photo of soft coral taken at Barolin Rocks at the end of January had succumbed to the heat.
The spokesperson said as other species of soft coral in the photo were not bleached it would be hard to pinpoint why it happened.
Coral bleaching spreads rapidly and with hotter than average weather in Bundy it's especially important to keep an eye out before it's too late.
The spokesperson overall sea surface temperatures throughout the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park were about one degree above average for this time of the year.
"Due to the unprecedented heat stress experienced last summer and a warmer than average winter, corals may still be under stress and therefore more susceptible to bleaching and disease," they said.
Since the start of summer there have been more than 240 surveys done on 20 reefs in the marine park.
There have been some reports of minor bleaching in the northern and central areas this summer, but not from any southern reefs, some of which have recently been surveyed.
The GBRMPA spokesperson said while heat stress was the main cause of bleaching, other factors include freshwater inundation, poor water quality from sediment or pollutant run-off and naturally occurring diseases.
The bleaching of a single coral colony, the spokesperson said, could indicate poor health of individual coral, and was not in itself concerning or indicative of a reef-wide or regional problem.
And bleaching was most common in the summer months, in shallower reefs areas when even slight temperature increases were sustained for a period of time.
"Corals are able to recover from minor to moderate bleaching when temperatures return to normal," the spokesperson said.
"The Great Barrier Reef is bigger in size than Italy - it's a large and resilient system."
Anyone who believes they have seen coral bleaching is urged to report it at www.gbrmpa.gov.au.
"We rely on reports from partners about its health, and anyone out on the water can provide us with information through our Eye on the Reef monitoring program," the spokesperson said.