The vulnerability and conservation value of sub-tropical reefs south of the Great Barrier Reef – regarded as climate change refuges – has been highlighted in a new study.
University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences researcher Dr Brigitte Sommer said the study of Eastern Australian reefs revealed coral species would likely shift their distribution southward in response to climate change.
Coral range expansions would likely vary among species depending on the species’ characteristics and traits.
“In the subtropical-to-temperate transition zone south of the Great Barrier Reef, corals are at the limits of their distribution and environmental tolerances, as the water is cooler,” Dr Sommer said.
“There is less light and conditions are more seasonal and variable than on the Great Barrier Reef.”
Dr Sommer, a member of Professor John Pandolfi’s lab at UQ, said the new study examined 17 reefs from the Sunshine Coast, in south-east Queensland, to Port Stephens in New South Wales.
Photo: ESA/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)