Dr. Carden Wallace and her team investigated the corals of Moreton Bay in south-east Queensland over the time period of 2003-2007. This was to set up a baseline for assessing future changes in diversity and distribution. The reefs of Moreton Bay, at around 27°S, were regarded as being close to environmental extinction but substantial coral pockets remain and are currently at their highest recorded living diversity. It is a latitudinally marginal reef and Dr. Wallace refers to it as a “City Reef” because it is so close to Brisbane. It is predicted to be the site of increasing coral biodiversity and show evidence of the migration of Great Barrier Reef corals south, as southern seas warm and global climate change intensifies.
The corals of Inner Moreton Bay show a remarkable persistence through time, (72% are recorded in the Holocene fossil record) and space (72% occur in Outer Moreton Bay and 59% to the south in New South Wales). Its coral fauna fluctuates with water quality and there has been intermittent loss of species due to freshwater flooding. However, this is balanced by recruitment by coral larvae from sources outside the bay.
It is thought that regional species may establish themselves in the bay as changes in environmental management strategies begin to reverse the effects of coral mining, over-fishing and runoff of pollutants. The present high diversity may be due to better conditions for coral survival due to these human endeavours as well as a lessening in major flooding, warmer climate conditions or a combination of all these factors. It will be interesting to see if coral reef growth increases, as more corals migrate south with increases in global warming.
Useful web links: School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University; and Queensland Museum Education, Australian Research Council of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and Moreton Bay Marine Park Plan.