The first documented discovery of 'extreme corals' in mangrove lagoons around Australia's Great Barrier Reef is yielding important information about how corals deal with environmental stress, scientists say. CREDIT: Dr Emma Camp
The first documented discovery of 'extreme corals' in mangrove lagoons around Australia's Great Barrier Reef is yielding important information about how corals deal with environmental stress, scientists say. CREDIT: Dr Emma Camp

Amazing find of coral in ‘extreme’ Far North conditions

CORALS have been thriving in mangroves on the Great Barrier Reef under conditions scientists have labelled as "extreme".

Thirty-four species of coral have been discovered growing in mangrove lagoons at Low Isles off Port Douglas, and Howick Island, northwest of Lizard Island, where they are regularly exposed to low oxygen, highly variable water temperatures and extremely low acidity.

University of Technology Sydney researcher Dr Emma Camp said the important discovery highlighted the need to study environments that would usually be considered unfavourable to corals to find out how they tolerated living there.

"There is a lot we don't know," she said.

"For example, are these extreme corals already at their limit? Can they survive more stress, if we transplant them to more stable environments?"

The corals were discovered off mangrove lagoons at Low Isles off Port Douglas (pictured), and Howick Island, northwest of Lizard Island. Photo: Marc McCormack
The corals were discovered off mangrove lagoons at Low Isles off Port Douglas (pictured), and Howick Island, northwest of Lizard Island. Photo: Marc McCormack

Dr Camp pointed out that the locations were not on the shore, where most mangrove communities are growing.

"I think the study shows that we need to look beyond just pristine areas, where we're used to finding reefs," she said.

"The quality of reefs is changing, so the faster we can understand how they can adapt, we can then use that information to facilitate management of climate.

"Looking in places where we wouldn't normally find coral, such as inshore reefs, or these mangrove lagoons, becomes increasingly beneficial to explain how corals can survive adverse conditions."


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