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(Mostly) good news from the Great Barrier Reef

Coral cover on portions of the reef at highest level in 36 years

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A green turtle swims in waters off Ribbon Reef No. 10 near Cairns, Australia, on Jan. 26, 2019.

A green turtle swims in waters off Ribbon Reef No. 10 near Cairns, Australia, on Jan. 26, 2019. Parts of the Great Barrier Reef have their highest coral cover in 36 years, marine scientists have found.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority via Associated Press

Parts of the Great Barrier Reef have their highest coral cover in 36 years, marine scientists have found.

That’s the good news. The bad? Global warming could disrupt the reef’s recovery, according to USA Today.

Driving the news: Scientists monitored 87 reefs to track year-over-year changes. NPR reported on the findings:

“From August 2021 to May 2022, the central and northern regions of the Great Barrier Reef had hard coral cover levels of 33% and 36%, respectively. Coral cover decreased by 4% in the southern region, due to an outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish.”

Figures in the central and northern regions accounted for the highest coral cover in almost four decades, according to The Hill. Low heat stress, fewer cyclones and less “mass coral bleaching” are among factors in the improvement.

Looking ahead: Still, scientists warn of global warming’s impact on the reef. USA Today reported on what coral bleaching is, and how it could affect the Great Barrier Reef in the future.

“Bleaching is a coral’s response to stressful conditions such as heat. During bleaching, the coral animal loses its algae and pigments, causing it to turn white and potentially die.”

According to ABC News, lawmakers in Australia are taking additional steps to protect the reef. The government is going to stop a new coal mine’s development “due to the potential impact on the nearby Great Barrier Reef.”

The measure could help curb Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, The Associated Press reported.