March cyclone damaged Great Barrier Reef

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One of the most powerful cyclones to hit Australia in recent times damaged about 10per cent of the Great Barrier Reef, scientists say.

Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science said yesterday that Ingrid, a category four cyclone which struck in March, had damaged sections of the reef up to 100km away from the direct path of the storm.

Scientists predict some of the estimated 260 damaged sections could take two decades to recover, but others would bounce back in as little as three years.

Ingrid wreaked most damage between Princess Charlotte Bay and the Lockhart River, off Queensland’s far north coast.

A recent 15-day study of the cyclone’s effect on the delicate ecosystem found 80 individual reefs took the full brunt of the extreme weather system when it hit Queensland.

Damage was also recorded up to 100km away from the cyclone centre, AIMS project leader Dr Katharina Fabricius said.

“It was an awesome display of the force of nature,” Dr Fabricius said.

“We saw massive coral 2-3m in diameter lifted on top of reef flats. The amount of energy that took was incredible. But knowing that the reefs are so healthy up there because human pressures are so low makes me fairly certain they will recover reasonably quickly from the impact.”

Dr Fabricius said the study found the corals on the outer reef were stronger than those on the inshore reefs, which “are more fragile by nature because they don’t normally experience high reef damage”.

“Although the outer-shelf reefs experienced up to 10m wave heights they didn’t get smashed up any more than the inner reefs with much lower wave heights.”

Source: The Australian/AAP