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Sci Rep. 2019 Dec 23;9(1):19710. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-56232-1.

The Rarity of Depth Refugia from Coral Bleaching Heat Stress in the Western and Central Pacific Islands.

Author information

1
Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, University of Hawaii at Mānoa, 1000 Pope Road, Honolulu, HI, 96822, USA. rvenegas@hawaii.edu.
2
Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 1845 Wasp Boulevard, Building 176, Honolulu, HI, 96818, USA. rvenegas@hawaii.edu.
3
Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 1845 Wasp Boulevard, Building 176, Honolulu, HI, 96818, USA. thomas.oliver@noaa.gov.
4
NOAA/NESDIS/STAR Coral Reef Watch, College Park, MD, 20740, USA.
5
Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center/Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites-Maryland, University of Maryland, 5825 University Research Court, College Park, MD, 20740, USA.
6
Marine Geophysical Laboratory, Physics Department, College of Science, Technology and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, 4811, Australia.
7
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California Santa Barbara, California, CA, 93101, USA.
8
Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, University of Hawaii at Mānoa, 1000 Pope Road, Honolulu, HI, 96822, USA.
9
Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 1845 Wasp Boulevard, Building 176, Honolulu, HI, 96818, USA.

Abstract

Some researchers have suggested that corals living in deeper reefs may escape heat stress experienced by shallow corals. We evaluated the potential of deep coral reef refugia from bleaching stress by leveraging a long record of satellite-derived sea surface temperature data with a temporal, spatial, and depth precision of in situ temperature records. We calculated an in situ stress metric using a depth bias-adjusted threshold for 457 coral reef sites among 49 islands in the western and central Pacific Ocean over the period 2001-2017. Analysis of 1,453 heating events found no meaningful depth refuge from heat stress down to 38 m, and no significant association between depth and subsurface heat stress. Further, the surface metric underestimated subsurface stress by an average of 39.3%, across all depths. Combining satellite and in situ temperature data can provide bleaching-relevant heat stress results to avoid misrepresentation of heat stress exposure at shallow reefs.

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