Miller, M.W., Piniak, G., Williams, D.
Coral mass bleaching and reef temperatures at Navassa Island, 2006
Estuarine, Coastal, and Shelf Science
"Bleaching and associated mortality is an extreme threat to the persistence of coral populations in the projected warming regime of the next few decades. Recent evidence indicates that thermal bleaching thresholds may be affected by water quality gradients. The unexpected encounter of a coral mass bleaching event at a remote, uninhabited Caribbean island (Navassa) during a routine reef assessment cruise in November 2006 provided the opportunity to characterize bleaching responses and thermal exposure in an oceanic area with negligible continental influence or human impact on water quality. The coral taxa most susceptible to bleaching were Agaricia spp. and Montastraea faveolata. Siderastraea siderea, Diploria spp. and Porites porites were intermediately affected, while Porites astreoides and Montastraea cavernosa were minimally affected and negligible bleaching was observed in Acropora palmata. Bleaching prevalence (colonies > 4 cm diameter) ranged from 0.16 to 0.63 among sites. Deeper sites (between 18 and 37 m) had significantly higher prevalence of bleaching than shallow sites (<10 m). This general pattern of more bleaching in deeper sites also occurred within species. Though exposure to high-temperature stress was not greater at deeper sites, water motion, which may bolster bleaching resistance, was likely less. In situ loggers indicated temperatures over 30 C initiated at shallow sites in mid-August, at deeper sites in early September, and were persistent at all sites until mid-October. Long term (1983e2007) climatologies constructed from AVHRR SSTs suggest that the mass bleaching event observed at Navassa in 2006 corresponded with greater intensity and duration of warm temperature anomalies than occurred in 2005, for which no in situ observations (bleaching nor temperature) are available."
CRCP Project ID 1056; Project Title: The Status and Exploitation of Reef Resources on Navassa Island; Principal Investigator: Margaret Miller