Polluted floodwater runoff from the north Queensland floods last month is impacting the ability of the Great Barrier Reef to bounce back from coral die-off events, researchers say.
The dirty water is hindering recovery rates of the reef by up to 25 per cent according to research that used a combination of advanced satellite imaging and coral monitoring.
The reef has experienced multiple disturbances in recent years including mass bleaching events and the crown-of-thorns starfish consuming coral throughout the reef.
Researchers from James Cook University, Dalhousie University and the University of Adelaide found that chronic exposure to poor water quality is limiting the recovery rates of large swathes of the reef.
Dr Camille Mellin said while disturbances to the reef were "becoming the new normal" the rate of coral recovery had become "incredibly important".
However, after modelling future climate change and the likelihood of coral bleaching the team found that water quality improvement alone would not be able to maintain current levels of coral cover.
"Clearly reducing pollution in river runoff can have widespread, beneficial effects on reef corals and should continue to be supported," Dr Mellin said.
"But for areas of the reef not impacted by water quality, our emphasis must be on mitigating carbon emissions to slow down climate change."
Australian Associated Press