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Science. 2018 Jan 5;359(6371):80-83. doi: 10.1126/science.aan8048.

Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene.

Author information

1
Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia.
2
College of Marine and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia.
3
Coral Reef Watch, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, College Park, MD 20740, USA.
4
Marine Geophysical Laboratory, Physics Department, College of Science, Technology, and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia.
5
Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville, QLD 4810, Australia.
6
Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada.
7
Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal 23599-6900, Saudi Arabia.
8
Queensland Museum, 70-102 Flinders Street, Townsville, QLD 4810, Australia.
9
Australian Institute of Marine Science, Indian Ocean Marine Science Centre, University of Western Australia (UWA), WA 6009, Australia.
10
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK.
11
Department of Environment and Agriculture, Curtin University, Perth, WA 6845, Australia.
12
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, UWA Oceans Institute, and School of Earth Sciences, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.
13
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.
14
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Kensington, Perth, WA 6151, Australia.

Abstract

Tropical reef systems are transitioning to a new era in which the interval between recurrent bouts of coral bleaching is too short for a full recovery of mature assemblages. We analyzed bleaching records at 100 globally distributed reef locations from 1980 to 2016. The median return time between pairs of severe bleaching events has diminished steadily since 1980 and is now only 6 years. As global warming has progressed, tropical sea surface temperatures are warmer now during current La Niña conditions than they were during El Niño events three decades ago. Consequently, as we transition to the Anthropocene, coral bleaching is occurring more frequently in all El Niño-Southern Oscillation phases, increasing the likelihood of annual bleaching in the coming decades.

PMID:
29302011
DOI:
10.1126/science.aan8048
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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