Coral Recovery Following Cyclone Debbie

As I've documented in a previous news item, Cyclone Debbie devastated coral reefs in the Whitsunday area where we live. Until now we have not found a site near us where coral still looks good. We recently spent a day exploring Saddleback Island again and found that the fringing reef in the southeast facing bay of this island is recovering quickly from the coral damage caused by this powerful cyclone. Most of the larger corals were healthy and the extensive shallow staghorn coral gardens were looking remarkably good again after being broken up by the cyclone waves. The many large soft corals on this reef were also healthy and happy. The signature huge Porites boulder coral on this reef was undamaged by either the 2017 coral bleaching event or the cyclone.

It was a different story on the devastated northern Saddleback reef. Here the newly formed rubble bank showed little evidence of coral recovery. Various seaweed species carpeted the dead coral rubble with only an occasional live fragment of coral surviving. It will be many years before coral recovers to its former richness on this reef.