Research into the damage and recovery options for the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from a number of disturbances including cyclones, Black Band Disease, Crown of Thorns and Climate Change resulting in coral bleaching.

The Morris Family Foundation is providing funding to understand the impacts with a view to assist in the management and recovery of the reef.

Earthwatch, Recovery of the GBR

Earthwatch undertake research examining how the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), specifically areas around Orpheus Island, recovers after major natural disturbances. Led by Dr David Bourne (Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University), nine teams of citizen scientists have undertaken research expeditions around Orpheus Island to investigate the processes that drive recovery of corals after major disturbances, such as disease and cyclones. Results will help reef manages understand the resilience of reefs to these threats and equip agencies with the tools to enhance long-term reef management.

The Morris Family Foundation has contributed to this research.

Great Barrier Reef Legacy, Search for Super Corals

Recent aerial surveys show two thirds of all corals have been bleached, and in the northern sector in 2016 alone, an average of 67% of corals have already died.  What is not understood is which species of coral survived and why? Given not all corals were affected by the bleaching, it is expected that particular species, or “Super Corals”, have the ability to withstand and therefore adapt to increased water temperature to a much greater extent than others. Understanding exactly which species did better and which ones did not will help us understand how coral reef’s might be shaped into the future and will allow for informed decisions on the management of these areas.

The Morris Family Foundation has funded the first research expedition into the most affected areas of the GBR. The expedition is taking place in November 2017.

James Cook University, Early Detection System for Crown of Thorns Outbreaks 

Outbreaks of Crown of Thorns pose one of the most significant threats to the Great Barrier Reef. Coral cover on surveyed reefs has declined by about 50 per cent over the past 30 years. COTS were responsible for almost half of this decline.

Currently, there is a lag in responding to outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, because outbreaks only become apparent when there are large numbers of coral-feeding starfish detected at one or more reefs.  The purpose of this project is to develop an effective ‘early-warning system’ by measuring the number of larval starfish settling to reefs and/ or counting the number of very small (<1cm diameter) juvenile starfish with reef habitats, and thereby, ensure control programs and activities are timed to prevent inevitable coral loss caused by high-densities of adult crown-of-thorns starfish.

The Morris Family Foundation funded this project to take place in mid 2017.


Research into the damage and recovery options for the Great Barrier Reef