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Caribbean: Coral bleaching likely in 2010

Washington, DC (Global Adventures): Coral bleaching is likely to hit the Caribbean in 2010, according to the NOAA Coral Reef Watch (CRW) monitoring system. With temperatures above-average all year, NOAA’s models show a strong potential for bleaching in the southern. Southeastern Caribbean through October that could be as severe as in 2005 when over 80 percent of corals bleached and over 40 percent died at many sites across the area. Scientists are already reporting coral bleaching at several Caribbean sites. Severe bleaching has been reported from other parts of the world.

Large areas of the southeastern Caribbean Sea are experiencing thermal stress capable of causing coral bleaching. The western Gulf of Mexico and the southern portion of the Bahamas have also experienced significant bleaching thermal stress. The CRW Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress Outlook indicates that the high stress should continue to develop in the southern and southeast Caribbean until mid-October, NOAA says in a press release. Prolonged coral bleaching can lead to death. The subsequent loss of coral reef habitats for a range of marine life.

The early warning predictions of NOAA’s

CRW program are vital to assist coral reef managers in making early preparations for coral bleaching events, says Billy Causey. “While managers can’t do anything immediately to prevent coral bleaching, these early warnings give them time to monitor and track the stressful event, thus learning more about both direct and secondary impacts of bleaching on coral reefs around the world.”

The decline and loss of coral reefs has significant social, cultural, economic and ecological impacts on people and communities in the Caribbean, the United States, and Australia. As the “rainforests of the sea,” coral reefs provide services estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion globally each year.

High temperatures cause corals

to force out the symbiotic algae that provide them with food. This makes the corals appear white or ‘bleached’ and can increase outbreaks of infectious disease,” said Mark Eakin. “Temperatures are high in the Caribbean, and we expect this to continue. This season has the potential to be one of the worst bleaching seasons for some reefs.”

Even though a variety of stresses continue to rise in the Caribbean basin, temperatures are expected to begin cooling in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida. In addition, recent hurricanes and tropical storms that passed near the U.S. Virgin Islands have cooled the waters there. NOAA researchers have shown that tropical weather systems can cool the high temperatures that cause bleaching. NOAA forecasts that this Atlantic hurricane season will probably be more active than usual.


survey cruise just returned from the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary where we saw serious bleaching, said Emma Hickerson. “Several species were bleached and we are concerned we could lose much of the fire corals this year.”

Overall the 2005 bleaching event was the result of the largest. Most intense thermal stress recorded in the Caribbean during the 25-year NOAA satellite record.

The picture shows large areas of the southeastern Caribbean Sea are experiencing thermal stress capable of causing coral bleaching. Illustration: NOAA

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Chief Editor at Global Adventures Magazine

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