Urgent need to protect vulnerable table corals on the Great Barrier Reef: Experts

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Table corals on the Great Barrier Reef are highly important for they provide vital sun protection to a large number of fish in shallow reef areas and experts studying them have urged for urgent need to protect them because if they are lost, the fish that depend on them will leave the reef as well.

Scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University have revealed that table corals provide an important shelter to fishes protecting them from the sun and if they are lost, fishes will have no choice but to leave the reef as they won’t be getting protection against the harmful UV-radiation.

Study co-author Professor David Bellwood said: “Large fishes maintain balanced coral reef ecosystems, they’re the predators that help control fish populations. These fish are important for reefs and people; lose your table corals and you lose your coral trout.”

Scientists have drawn particular attention to the vulnerability of table corals to the pressures currently facing the Great Barrier Reef. They reveal that these corals are highly susceptible to ocean acidification and bleaching, and are the preferred meal of the destructive crown of thorns starfish.

Further, due to their shape table corals are also easily toppled and are often destroyed in cyclones.

“Ultimately we need to conserve table corals because they are the primary structure on the Reef that provides shelter from the sun’s harmful rays. However, because they are so vulnerable to climate change and other growing threats, this is going to be a major challenge,” says study lead author James Kerry.

“The research suggests that we need to do everything we can to promote the health of the Great Barrier Reef, and in doing so, reduce the multiple threats facing these valuable corals.”