The Great Barrier Reef is set to receive a restocking of new coral from a pumice raft, the size of more than 20,000 football fields, now on its way to Australia following an underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga.
QUT geologist Associate Professor Scott Bryan will be studying samples of the pumice recovered by passing sailors shortly after the eruption. He will continue to study the impact as the pumice raft, which is already more than 150sq km, hits Australian shores in about seven or eight months time, bringing with it billions of marine organisms who attach themselves along the way.
Professor Bryan has been following the pumice raft’s voyage since the eruption with the help of QUT spatial scientist Dr Andrew Fletcher.
“This is some of the newest rock on our planet, only being a few days old. The pumice is from an eruption that no one really witnessed,
“This is a potential mechanism for restocking the Great Barrier Reef.
“Based on past pumice raft events we have studied over the last 20 years, it’s going to bring new healthy corals and other reef dwellers to the Great Barrier Reef,” Professor Bryan said. Although it won’t solve all the problems the Great Barrier Reef is facing, having more corals on hand to help speed recovery will be a benefit.
The pumice comes from an unnamed but only recently discovered underwater volcano that satellite images reveal erupted probably on August 7. This volcano last erupted in 2001.
Pumice forms when frothy molten rock cools rapidly and forms a lightweight bubble-rich rock that can float in water.
The first report of the pumice came when Australian couple Michael Hoult and Larissa Brill from SailSurfROAM, sailing their catamaran to Fiji, encountered the volcanic rock floating on the ocean’s surface.
“We entered a total rock rubble slick made up of pumice stones from marble to basketball size,” the couple said in their Facebook post detailing the encounter.
“The waves were knocked back to almost calm and the boat was slowed to 1 knot. The rubble slick went as far as we could see in the moonlight and with our spotlight.”
The Australian sailors reported the hazard of the rocks and have since been working with Professor Bryan in providing samples and details of their encounter.
Professor Bryan, who has been studying similar eruptions like this for 20 years, said this sort of occurrence happens about every five years in our region but the timing of this eruption is good news for the Great Barrier Reef.
“At the moment the pumice will be bare and barren but over the next few weeks it’s going to start getting organisms attached to it,” Professor Bryan said.
“Then they’re going to grow and diversify, to ultimately wash up here in Australia.”
Professor Bryan said the pumice raft would pass New Caledonia, Vanuatu and possibly some coral reef areas in the eastern Coral Sea around the time of the main coral spawning late this year.
“It’s the right timing. So it will be able to pick up corals and other reef building organisms, and then bring them into the Great Barrier Reef,” Professor Bryan said.
“Each piece of pumice is a rafting vehicle. It’s a home and a vehicle for marine organisms to attach and hitch a ride across the deep ocean to get to Australia.”
Professor Bryan published world-first research in 2004 of a previous eruption from the same volcano. The research shows how pumice waves from the south-west Pacific could not only be something that helps the Great Barrier Reef but also possibly be how the reef was formed in the first place.
As the pumice raft comes closer to Australia, Professor Bryan said one of the interesting things to study would be the composition and character of the pumice and compare that to the pumice produced in the 2001 eruption.
“Given the volcano erupted 18 years ago, we want to know whether this is left-over magma from 2001 that has erupted now, or is it a totally new batch of magma that has arrived at the volcano causing the eruption,” Professor Bryan said. “This can then give us insights into how volcanoes work and what the triggers are for eruption.”
The Latest on: Great Barrier Reef
via Google News
The Latest on: Great Barrier Reef
- Makeshift research fleet undertakes first Great Barrier Reef 'census' citizen science projecton October 7, 2020 at 12:32 pm
A flotilla of tourist boats, fishing vessels and superyachts is conducting an unprecedented research operation on the Great Barrier Reef in a bid to capture a big-picture snapshot of its health.
- Great Reef Census: Cairns tourism boats on board for huge citizen science climate change projecton October 7, 2020 at 12:13 pm
EVERY major reef tourism operator in Cairns is about to hit the water to collect data for the Great Barrier Reef’s most ambitious citizen-led research project in history.
- Great Reef Census: citizens invited to photograph Great Barrier Reefon October 7, 2020 at 7:00 am
Queenslanders are invited to strap on a snorkel and conduct reconnaissance of the Great Barrier Reef as part of a world-first citizen science project.
- Great Barrier Reef's Heart Island opens to the publicon October 2, 2020 at 11:30 pm
Previously a visit to the island was just a lovely daydream. However, Hamilton Island Air now offers a very James Bond-esque helicopter flight over Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet and Heart Reef, before ...
- Tourism bounty to conserve the Great Barrier Reefon September 30, 2020 at 4:27 am
North Queensland tourism operators will be paid for Great Barrier Reef conservation work and heritage sites will be upgraded around the nation as part of a 61.7m program.
- Netflix has commissioned its first Australian original documentary – a deep dive on the almost-alien creatures that call the Great Barrier Reef homeon September 29, 2020 at 12:11 am
Netflix has commissioned its first Austrlaian original docmentary, “Microworlds: Reef”. The documenrary is set in The Great Barrier Reef and gives viewers a peek into the world of the reef’s tiny ...
- Stabilizing marine reserves in Great Barrier Reefon September 28, 2020 at 2:03 pm
Researchers examined larval dispersal patterns of the coral grouper, Plectropomus maculatus, from marine reserves in the Great Barrier Reef and found that the performance of single reserves varied ...
- Netflix announces first Australian Netflix Original Documentary will explore The Great Barrier Reefon September 28, 2020 at 7:01 am
Australia’s first Netflix Original documentary will shine a spotlight on Queensland’s iconic destination, The Great Barrier Reef.
- Great Barrier Reef: Samantha Kinghorn on a mesmerising natural wonderon September 27, 2020 at 4:07 am
The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Why do you go there? After competing at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, I spent six weeks travelling around Australia with my friend, Becca. We started in ...
- Saltwater crocodile attacks man swimming on Great Barrier Reefon September 24, 2020 at 4:57 pm
Wildlife authorities are hunting for a saltwater crocodile that bit a man on the head while he was snorkelling near the Great Barrier Reef. A man has been bitten on the head by a saltwater crocodile ...
via Bing News