NOAA reports major coral bleaching in 2014

Hawaii bleaching the worst on record


Coral reefs experienced major heat stress in 2014. Map courtesy NOAA – Dan Pisut.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even without a surge of El Niño ocean heat, there was widespread coral bleaching across parts of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean this past summer.

Reefs in the Florida Keys saw their worst bleaching episode since 1997-1999, when a major El Niño was followed by strong La Niña conditions, NOAA scientists reported recently. The surprising intensity of bleaching across multiple ocean basins in 2014 has scientists wondering what to expect in 2015, when El Niño is forecasted to finally develop. Continue reading

Global warming: Study maps coral reef vulnerability


Global warming threatens coral reef diversity. Photo courtesy NOAA.

74 percent of world’s reefs could see annual bleaching events by 2035

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Using the latest data from the upcoming IPCC climate assessment, ocean researchers have concluded that about three-quarters of the world’s coral reefs could face annual bleaching events in just a short 30 years, and they’ve mapped out which areas will be hit first.

“This study represents the most up-to-date understanding of spatial variability in the effects of rising temperatures on coral reefs on a global scale,” said researcher Serge Planes, Ph.D., from the French research institute CRIOBE in French Polynesia. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Great Barrier reef has lost half its coral cover

Outbreaks of the coral eating crown of thorns starfish have been responsible for 42 percent of the over 50 percent decline in coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef between 1985 and 2012. Photo courtesy Katharina Fabricius, Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Multiple short-interval disturbances causing long-term decline, with southern areas hit hardest

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Australian researchers say the Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover in the past 27 years, with more impacts expected as the climate warms in coming decades. About half (46 percent) of the loss was from storm damage, with another 42 percent attributed to crown of thorns starfish and 10 percent lost to bleaching.

“We can’t stop the storms but, perhaps we can stop the starfish. If we can, then the reef will have more opportunity to adapt to the challenges of rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification, says John Gunn, CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville. Continue reading

Global warming: More bad news for coral reefs

New global assessment predicts significant damage to majority of reef ecosystems unless greenhouse gases are curbed drastically

Staghorn coral. Photo courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Most coral reefs are likely doomed unless humankind acts quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new global assessment of global warming impacts published last week in Nature Climate Change.

“Our findings show that under current assumptions regarding thermal sensitivity, coral reefs might no longer be prominent coastal ecosystems if global mean temperatures actually exceed 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level,” said lead author Katja Frieler, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Without a yet uncertain process of adaptation or acclimation, however, already about 70 percent of corals are projected to suffer from long-term degradation by 2030 even under an ambitious mitigation scenario.”

The threshold for protecting at least half the world’s coral reef ecosystems is estimated at 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the study conducted by scientists from Potsdam, the University of British Columbia in Canada and the Universities of Melbourne and Queensland in Australia. Continue reading

Regulating water quality may help stave off coral reef bleaching — for a while

Low nutrient stress promoted the loss of symbiotic algae (bleaching) in a staghorn coral.
Photo courtesy University of Southampton.

Imbalance of nutrients make corals more susceptible to damage from warming oceans

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Efforts to reduce pollution impacts to coastal reef ecosystems are likely to be more effective if the nutrient loading is reduced in a balanced way.

An imbalance of nutrients can increase coral’s susceptibility to bleaching, according to new research  from the University of Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre.

The study found that nutrient enrichment of the water can increase the probability of corals to suffer from heat-induced bleaching. Continue reading

Florida’s coral reefs hit hard by record cold water temps

A drawing from an 1851 survey of Florida's coral reefs. Click on the image to see NOAA's online library of historical drawings.

Cold-water bleaching in the Keys the first since late 1970s

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The planet may be heating up, but parts of Florida experienced the coldest December on record, chilling the waters around the Keys to the point that it killed coral reefs.

During the first two weeks of January, water temperatures dropped below 50 degrees, to some of the coldest readings ever recorded, leading to coral bleaching and deaths in the Florida National Marine Sanctuary. Coral reefs generally can’t survive at water temperatures below 60 degrees. The cold snap also killed manatees and untold numbers of fish.

The hardest-hit areas include the inshore and mid-channel reefs from Biscayne Bay in southeast Florida to Summerland Key, according to a press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Click here to visit NOAA’s coral reef website. Continue reading

Widespread coral reef bleaching expected this year

Bleached fire coral and christmas tree worm on top (Flower Gardens Bank bleaching 2010). PHOTO BY NOAA.

Reefs provide ecoystem services valued at $375 billion per year

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Coral reef bleaching is likely across large parts of the Caribbean this year as ocean temperatures continue to be well above average.

Scientists with a federal reef-watching program say several sites in the region have already reported bleaching. The bleaching episode this could be as bad as 2005, when more than 80 percent of Caribbean corals were bleached and 40 percent died at many sites across the Caribbean.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s coral reef watch program shows that the southeastern Caribbean Sea, the western Gulf of Mexico and the southern portion of the Bahamas are experiencing significant bleaching thermal stress. The outlook calls for continued high water temps to continue through mid-October.
Prolonged coral bleaching can lead to coral death and the subsequent loss of coral reef habitats for a range of marine life. Continue reading


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