Claims that climate change will kill off the coral on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef within a generation are unfounded, researchers in Australia said Saturday.

James Cook University’s Sean Connolly told The Australian newspaper that his research suggested coral was hardier than previously thought and Australia’s top tourist attraction had coping mechanisms that would allow it to endure.

“It’ll be different, it’ll be worse than it is now, but I don’t think it’ll be gone in 20 or 30 years,” he said.

Connolly, whose research paper is published in the journal Science, said deterioration was “more like a slope than a cliff” and that damage could be arrested if greenhouse gas emissions were reduced.

His modelling showed the reef could be in its present form beyond 2100.

Prominent reef scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, from Queensland University’s Centre for Marine Studies, said earlier this year that the reef would die unless carbon emissions declined sharply within the next decade.

According to Ray Berkelmans, a coral bleaching expert with the Australian Institute of Marine Science, all of Queensland’s coral could be gone by 2025 if global warming keeps pushing up the water temperature.

The reef is an assembly of 2,900 individual reefs stretching 2,600 kilometres down Australia’s east coast. Two million tourists visit each year.