Research examines influence of coral bleaching on Western Australia’s shoreline –

Research examines influence of coral bleaching on Western Australia’s shoreline


Aerial view of a bleached inshore Kimberley reef in April 2016. Credit: Dr Steeve Comeau

Researchers from The University of Western Australia (UWA), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and Western Australian Marine Science Institution have examined the influence of the 2016 mbad bleaching occasion on reefs in Western Australia (WA). They discovered vital bleaching occurred within the inshore Kimberley area, regardless of Kimberley corals being often known as exceptionally stress resistant. They additionally discovered gentle bleaching at Rottnest Island and that the Ningaloo Reef escaped bleaching.

The 2016 mbad bleaching occasion is probably the most extreme world bleaching occasion to ever be recorded.

Coral bleaching happens as the results of irregular environmental situations, similar to heightened sea temperatures that trigger corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, known as ‘zooxanthellae.’ The lack of these vibrant algae causes the corals to show white, and ‘bleach’. Bleached corals can get well if the temperature drops and zooxanthellae are capable of recolonise the coral, in any other case the coral might die.

The researchers, led by UWA’s Dr Verena Schoepf and Masters scholar Morane Le Nohaïc, performed surveys on the well being of coral reefs alongside the Western Australian shoreline from tropical to temperate areas.

“We found a concerning 57 to 80 per cent of corals on inshore Kimberley reefs were bleached in April 2016 – this included Montgomery Reef, Australia’s largest inshore reef,” Dr Schoepf stated.

“Our research also found that there was mild bleaching at Rottnest Island – 29 per cent of corals were moderately bleached.”

“Ningaloo Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site, escaped bleaching, but had some temperature-unrelated coral mortality. Temperate corals at Bremer Bay (Southwest) experienced no bleaching.”

Aerial view of bleaching in Western Australia. Credit: Steeve Comeau

Dr Schoepf stated bleaching patterns had been in keeping with patterns of warmth stress throughout WA.

“This is the first documented regional-scale bleaching event in WA during an El Nino year and the first time we have been able to measure the percentage of impacted corals in 2016,” she stated.

“Coral reefs in WA are now at risk of bleaching during both El Nino years, such as in 2016, and La Nina years, such as 2010/11. But the geographic footprint differs – the northwest is at risk during El Nino years, whereas Ningaloo Reef and reefs further south are at risk during the La Nina cycle.”

“As bleaching events become more common in the future, it is critical to monitor how bleaching events impact coral reef resilience, and how long it takes reefs to recover from such catastrophic events.”

WA’s bleached coral communities. Credit: Morane Le Nohaic

Explore additional:
Even thermally tolerant corals are in scorching water with regards to bleaching

More data:
Morane Le Nohaïc et al, Marine heatwave causes unprecedented regional mbad bleaching of thermally resistant corals in northwestern Australia, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-14794-y

Journal reference:
Scientific Reports

Provided by:
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies

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