Hard corals of Keppel Bay

Most of the well-developed Keppel reefs, to a depth of about 8 metres, comprise thick beds of healthy, fast-growing, branching Acropora, or ‘staghorn’, corals.

‘Bed of nails’, soft corals and staghorn corals at Bald rock in Keppel Bay. © Alison Jones.

Competing for space with the branching corals are the huge, slower-growing Faviidae or ‘brain’ corals.

Both branching and brain corals form complex 3D structures in which other creatures can live and hide.

A massive colony of Lobophyllia columnar the size of a VW Beetle breaks apart during the 2011 flood at North Keppel Island. © Alison Jones.

In bays located downwind of the prevailing easterly winds, the reefs are often shallow and covered in neat, pin-cushion-shaped colonies of Acropora millepora, which can range in colour from red to blue, purple, green or yellow.

These coral beds are found nowhere else on the Great Barrier Reef.

Acropora millepora on the reef flat at Halfway Island © Alison Jones.

Keppel Bay’s branching and brain corals were once sought after by the coral collecting industry for dried ornaments.

Since about 2006, collectors focused more on live specimens of colourful fleshy corals (LPS), which are also the rarer and slow­-growing corals [43 ,44]. However there has been a trend towards small polyp species (SPS) of branching corals although again, only the rarer types.

Acropora tenuis collected from Keppel Bay and painted and sold as an ornament © Alison Jones.