SYDNEY - The so-called ‘godfather of coral’ is part of a new research mission to unlock some of the secrets of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Dr. Charlie Veron is part of a scientific team searching for the “super corals” that managed to survive consecutive years of bleaching on the world’s largest reef system.
Charlie Veron is one of the world's leading experts on coral reefs. Born in Sydney, he is known as the ‘godfather of coral’ because he has discovered so many different species. He is part of the Great Barrier Reef Legacy mission, which is taking eight teams of scientists on a voyage to map and test the health of remote parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
They are searching for so-called ‘super corals’ that managed to survive the past two years of devastating coral bleaching events.
Veron says the reef is in sharp decline.
“It is gut-wrenching and I have lived with this now for close on 20 years," he said. "The predictions that scientists made well over a decade ago have all turned out to be spot on. Well, this is a very important trip because we are actually seeing for ourselves what corals are vulnerable to mass bleaching and what corals are surviving mass bleaching. So, once we know that we will be able to make smart decisions about coral, so the trip is really quite pivotal.”
In April, researchers discovered that for the first time mass bleaching had affected the Great Barrier Reef in consecutive years, damaging two-thirds of the World Heritage-listed area.
When it bleaches, the coral is not dead, but it begins to starve and can eventually die. The reefs, though, are resilient, but what concerns scientists is that more frequent bleaching, which is caused by rising water temperatures, makes it harder for the coral to recover. Bleaching occurs when corals under stress drive out the algae that give them color.
Scientists believe that the main threat to the reef that stretches 2,300 kilometers down the Queensland coast in northern Australia is climate change.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is about the size of Italy or Japan and is so big it can be seen from outer space. It is home to more than 3,000 types of mollusks and 30 species of whales and dolphins.