Researchers in the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast have discovered a gigantic coral more than ten meters wide. It is said to be 400 years old.
Researchers in the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast have discovered a gigantic coral more than ten meters wide. The professional journal “Scientific Reports” reports that this is the widest coral ever recorded. At 5.3 meters high, it is the sixth largest coral in the whole rock – and several hundred years old.
Adam Smith’s team at James Cook University in Douglas said the hard coral near Orpheus Island belongs to the Borritz group, whose surface is 30 percent covered with sponges and algae.
The growth of borite corals largely depends on the sea surface temperature. In collaboration with the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS), the researchers calculated an annual increase of 1.21 cm in height for the giant coral. At 5.3 meters tall, the result was 438 years old. “This was long before Australia’s European exploration and colonization,” the researchers write. AIMS determined the age of 328 colonies of massive borite corals and the maximum age at 436 years. The coral found is one of the oldest on the Great Barrier Reef.
Scientists called the coral “face brother”, which means “big coral” in the language of the Manbara aborigines living in the area. The face brother is believed to have escaped 99 coral bleaching that occurred on the rock from 1575 onwards. From 1858 to 2008, 46 tropical cyclones were recorded in the region, which apparently did not harm the coral. “Looking to the future, there is a real coral concern over the Great Barrier Reef due to a number of impacts, including climate change, deteriorating water quality, overfishing and coastal growth,” Smith and colleagues write.
In fact, the natural wonder is now only a shadow of its former splendor in many places. The most recent analysis by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on the location of the World Heritage Site classifies the condition of the Great Barrier Reef as important and therefore worse than past inventory. The main reason for its instability is climate change. Global CO₂ emissions acidify the oceans and raise water temperatures. The warming of the ocean is particularly difficult for rock-makers – limestone hard corals. This leads to a decline in symbiosis with the main microorganisms and causes the corals to whiten.