Article

Caribbean corals in crisis: record thermal stress, bleaching, and mortality in 2005.

Coral Reef Watch, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.73). 01/2010; 5(11):e13969. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013969
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The rising temperature of the world's oceans has become a major threat to coral reefs globally as the severity and frequency of mass coral bleaching and mortality events increase. In 2005, high ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean resulted in the most severe bleaching event ever recorded in the basin.
Satellite-based tools provided warnings for coral reef managers and scientists, guiding both the timing and location of researchers' field observations as anomalously warm conditions developed and spread across the greater Caribbean region from June to October 2005. Field surveys of bleaching and mortality exceeded prior efforts in detail and extent, and provided a new standard for documenting the effects of bleaching and for testing nowcast and forecast products. Collaborators from 22 countries undertook the most comprehensive documentation of basin-scale bleaching to date and found that over 80% of corals bleached and over 40% died at many sites. The most severe bleaching coincided with waters nearest a western Atlantic warm pool that was centered off the northern end of the Lesser Antilles.
Thermal stress during the 2005 event exceeded any observed from the Caribbean in the prior 20 years, and regionally-averaged temperatures were the warmest in over 150 years. Comparison of satellite data against field surveys demonstrated a significant predictive relationship between accumulated heat stress (measured using NOAA Coral Reef Watch's Degree Heating Weeks) and bleaching intensity. This severe, widespread bleaching and mortality will undoubtedly have long-term consequences for reef ecosystems and suggests a troubled future for tropical marine ecosystems under a warming climate.

3 Bookmarks
 · 
205 Views
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Coral bleaching has become more frequent and widespread as a result of rising sea surface temperature (SST). During a regional scale SST anomaly, reef exposure to thermal stress is patchy in part due to physical factors that reduce SST to provide thermal refuge. Tropical cyclones (TCs - hurricanes, typhoons) can induce temperature drops at spatial scales comparable to that of the SST anomaly itself. Such cyclone cooling can mitigate bleaching across broad areas when well-timed and appropriately located, yet the spatial and temporal prevalence of this phenomenon has not been quantified. Here, satellite SST and historical TC data are used to reconstruct cool wakes (n=46) across the Caribbean during two active TC seasons (2005 and 2010) where high thermal stress was widespread. Upon comparison of these datasets with thermal stress data from Coral Reef Watch and published accounts of bleaching, it is evident that TC cooling reduced thermal stress at a region-wide scale. The results show that during a mass bleaching event, TC cooling reduced thermal stress below critical levels to potentially mitigate bleaching at some reefs, and interrupted natural warming cycles to slow the build-up of thermal stress at others. Further, reconstructed TC wave damage zones suggest that it was rare for more reef area to be damaged by waves than was cooled (only 12% of TCs). Extending the time series back to 1985 (n = 314), we estimate that for the recent period of enhanced TC activity (1995-2010), the annual probability that cooling and thermal stress co-occur is as high as 31% at some reefs. Quantifying such probabilities across the other tropical regions where both coral reefs and TCs exist is vital for improving our understanding of how reef exposure to rising SSTs may vary, and contributes to a basis for targeting reef conservation. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Global Change Biology 01/2014; · 8.22 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Ocean temperatures are increasing globally and the Caribbean is no exception. An extreme ocean warming event in 2010 placed Tobago's coral reefs under severe stress resulting in widespread coral bleaching and threatening the livelihoods that rely on them. The bleaching response of four reef building taxa was monitored over a six month period across three major reefs systems in Tobago. By identifying taxa resilient to bleaching we propose to assist local coral reef managers in the decision making process to cope with mass bleaching events. The bleaching signal (length of exposure to high ocean temperatures) varied widely between the Atlantic and Caribbean reefs, but regardless of this variation most taxa bleached. Colpophyllia natans, Montastraea faveolata and Siderastrea siderea were considered the most bleaching vulnerable taxa. Interestingly, reefs with the highest coral cover showed the greatest decline reef building taxa, and conversely, reefs with the lowest coral cover showed the most bleaching but lowest change in coral cover with little algal overgrowth post-bleaching.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(1):e83829. · 3.73 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The coral reef ecosystems of Nanwan Bay, Southern Taiwan are undergoing degradation due to anthropogenic impacts, and as such have resulted in a decline in coral cover. As a first step in preventing the continual degradation of these coral reef environments, it is important to understand how changes in water quality affect these ecosystems on a fine-tuned timescale. To this end, a real-time water quality monitoring system was implemented in Nanwan Bay in 2010. We found that natural events, such as cold water intrusion due to upwelling, tended to elicit temporal shifts in coral spawning between 2010 and 2011. In addition, Degree Heating Weeks (DHWs), a commonly utilized predictor of coral bleaching, were 0.92 and 0.59 in summer 2010 and 2011, respectively. Though this quantity of DHW was below the presumed stress-inducing value for these reefs, a rise in DHWs in the future may stress the resident corals.
    Marine pollution bulletin 12/2013; · 2.63 Impact Factor

Full-text (2 Sources)

View
47 Downloads
Available from
May 22, 2014