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Nature. 2017 Mar 15;543(7645):373-377. doi: 10.1038/nature21707.

Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals.

Author information

1
Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia.
2
College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia.
3
Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organization, GPO Box 2583 Brisbane, Queensland 4001, Australia.
4
School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.
5
Queensland Museum, 70-102 Flinders St, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia.
6
Australian Research Council, Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.
7
School of Medical Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.
8
Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia.
9
Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, Oceans Institute and School of Earth and Environment, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia.
10
Fisheries Research, Department of Primary Industries, PO Box 4291, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales 2450, Australia.
11
School of Environment, and Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland 4111, Australia.
12
Coral Reef Watch, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, College Park, Maryland 20740, USA.
13
School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.
14
Australian Institute of Marine Science, Indian Oceans Marine Research Centre, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia.
15
Global Science &Technology, Inc., Greenbelt, Maryland 20770, USA.
16
Marine Geophysical Laboratory, College of Science, Technology and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia.
17
Department of Environment and Agriculture, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia 6845, Australia.
18
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, PO Box 1379, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia.
19
Torres Strait Regional Authority, PO Box 261, Thursday Island, Queensland 4875, Australia.
20
Department of Parks and Wildlife, Kensington, Perth, Western Australia 6151, Australia.

Abstract

During 2015-2016, record temperatures triggered a pan-tropical episode of coral bleaching, the third global-scale event since mass bleaching was first documented in the 1980s. Here we examine how and why the severity of recurrent major bleaching events has varied at multiple scales, using aerial and underwater surveys of Australian reefs combined with satellite-derived sea surface temperatures. The distinctive geographic footprints of recurrent bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998, 2002 and 2016 were determined by the spatial pattern of sea temperatures in each year. Water quality and fishing pressure had minimal effect on the unprecedented bleaching in 2016, suggesting that local protection of reefs affords little or no resistance to extreme heat. Similarly, past exposure to bleaching in 1998 and 2002 did not lessen the severity of bleaching in 2016. Consequently, immediate global action to curb future warming is essential to secure a future for coral reefs.

PMID:
28300113
DOI:
10.1038/nature21707
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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