Fieldwork in Lizard Island

Fieldwork in Lizard Island – November 2019

The coral gang met again this year in Lizard Island for their 3D mapping mission. Maria, Viviana and collaborators went back to their study sites all around Lizard Island (Great Barrier Reef, Australia) to record the condition of the reef and collect environmental and larval recruitment data.

Maria and Viviana with collaborators Josh Madin and Oscar Pizarro getting ready to jump in the water, deploy settlement tiles and collect coral cover data.

In the past, two cyclones (Ita in 2014 and Nathan in 2015) and two mass bleaching events (in 2016 and 2017) left damage on coral reefs in Lizard Island, with a drastic decrease in coral cover, species richness and structural complexity. Most of the branching colonies of the genus Acropora were gone. Since last year though, the team have been finding and keeping track of new coral recruits on the 3D maps they produce. Among the 21 study sites, they found (literally) hundreds of them! With excitement, this year they found that most of them survived and some grew into small colonies that were healthy and big enough to be identified to species level. It looks like Acropora is back!

Examples of two reef sites mapped in 2018 and 2019. While in 2018 recruits were so small that were not visible on the maps, in 2019 they were even identifiable at the species level. Most of them were identified as belonging to the Acropora genus.

The team and lab are left with hope that if left undisturbed, the reef may at least partially recover.