Claims that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral cover between 1995 and 2017 have received global media coverage.
The stories were based on a new paper co-authored by controversial Australian researcher, Professor Terry Hughes of James Cook University.
But according to Professor Peter Ridd, a leading authority on the Great Barrier Reef, these claims are false.
According to Professor Ridd, the best data on coral cover is taken by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), who have been measuring over 100 reefs every year since 1986:
“AIMS data shows that coral cover fluctuates dramatically with time but there is roughly the same amount of coral today as in 1995. There was a huge reduction in coral cover in 2011 which was caused by two major cyclones that halved coral cover. Cyclones have always been the major cause of temporary coral loss on the Reef.”
Coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef 1986-2019; AIMS/Peter Ridd 2020
This is not the first time that Professor Hughes has made such claims about coral loss. His previous study was strongly criticised by the AIMS scientists responsible for collecting and publishing the coral data.
Moreover, Professor Hughes has refused to make public the raw data upon which he made this claim, despite repeated requests.
“This latest work by Prof Hughes needs a thorough quality-audit to test its veracity”, says Ridd. “Prime-facie, there are excellent grounds to treat it with great scepticism.”
Professor Peter Ridd
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