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Australia: Great Barrier Reef found to be healthier at depth, despite surface damage


Aerial views of The Great Barrier Reef are seen from above on August 7, 2009 in Cairns, Australia.


Phil Walter

The Great Barrier Reef, badly damaged by storms, coral bleaching and the crown-of-thorns starfish, may have a chance, according to researchers.

Using remote operated vehicles (ROVs) that can dive deeper than any human, a research team from the University of Queensland found coral flourishing — from around 100 to 260 feet down,The Australian reported.

The so-called Catlin Seaview Survey was conducted off the coast of northern Queensland, the northeastern Australian state here the 1,430-mile reef is located.

Pim Bongaerts of the University of Queensland's global change institute, who is leading the deep reef survey.

The paper quoted deep team leader Pim Bongaerts as saying:

"The Holmes and Flinders Reefs in the Coral Sea are renowned for having been badly damaged. Yet we have found their deep reef zone is hardly disturbed at all. In fact the most striking thing is the abundance of coral on the deep reef. What has blown me away is to see that even 70 to 80 meters down [230 to 260 feet], there are significant coral populations."

And deep-water reefs might be able to help the shallower ones recover, Bongaerts said, according to UPI.

"At the moment we know little about the extent of [coral] larval movements between the shallow and deep reef, but we are seeing species that exist in both zones," Bongaerts reportedly said.

Such movement between upper and lower corals, indicating they are part of the same population, could lead to the regeneration of the damaged upper reef, The Guardian reported.

The Australian cited a recent report by the Australian Institute of Marine Science as saying the Great Barrier Reef had lost half its coral cover in the past 27 years.

More from GlobalPost: Half of the Great Barrier Reef's coral has disappeared: Study

However, the researchers said their findings indicated that science was based on incomplete picture of the reef.