Repeated Mary River floods hit Hervey Bay coral hard

OUR coral is in trouble and according to University of Queensland PhD student Ian Butler it's time to act.

Mr Butler estimates the 2011 and 2013 floods destroyed up to 60% of the coral in Hervey Bay waters, with the marine national park zone at the northern end of Big Woody Island suffering a near total loss.

He said floodwaters raced down the river and entered the ocean, bringing with them sediments, fresh water and chemicals such as fertiliser or petrol.

"It bathes the coral in this water… but corals like to have clear, warm water," he said.

Mr Butler said although coral spent lots of time trying to "clean itself up", it struggled when not given enough time to recover.

He said poor water quality was also a major problem facing the Barrier Reef and one way to fix the problem might be to plant more trees.

The researcher said 85% of the Mary River bank was eroding, and more trees and other plants were needed to rejuvenate and steady the area in case of floods.

He is urging the government to help protect Australian reefs and says global warming predicts an increase in floods, which may lead to more dead coral.

Mr Butler said a world without coral would be a "sad, sad thing".

"Coral reefs are beautiful... they are like the rainforests of the sea," he said.

"Obviously coral is very important for fisheries, tourism and shoreline protection… the corals are also useful for medical things, like the treatment of cancer or the creation of sunscreen.

"I would recommend paying attention to what you're putting in the water."

Marine biologist and remote University of Queensland student Ian Butler is studying Hervey Bay's coral as he completes his doctorate.
Marine biologist and remote University of Queensland student Ian Butler is studying Hervey Bay's coral as he completes his doctorate. Valerie Horton

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