Deep coral reefs on the Great Barrier Reef cannot be relied on to save its shallow counterparts from the affects of global warming, a study has found.
The study suggests it's unlikely reefs will naturally heal the damage done through warming sea temperatures.
The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland's Global Change Institute published the study in Science Advances on Wednesday.
Lead author Dr Pim Bongaerts said the research was conducted in waters off Bermuda, but the results were applicable to the Great Barrier Reef.
"We argue that this concept of deep coral populations reseeding their shallow-water counterparts may be relevant to some species, but it is ultimately unlikely to aid more broadly in the recovery of shallow reefs," he said.
Dr Bongaerts said the results of the study showed it was "very unlikely reefs will just sort themselves out".
"I think for me personally it iterates that for the solution we really have to look within ourselves and divest in the use of fossil fuels," he told AAP.