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Long-term recovery of reefs from bleaching requires local action to increase resilience
Date:2/3/2009

VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. -- In the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Professor Dr. Peter Glynn, and 2008 Pew Fellow for Marine Conservation and Assistant Professor Dr. Andrew Baker, assess more than 25 years of data on reef ecosystems recovery from climate change-related episodes of coral bleaching. Coral bleaching in which corals expel their symbiotic algal partners and turn pale or white is one of the most visible impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. Typically caused by higher-than-normal ocean temperatures, it can lead to widespread death of corals and is a major contributor to the rapid decline of coral reef ecosystems worldwide.

The paper, co-authored by Dr. Bernhard Riegl, associate director of the National Coral Reef Institute, represents the first comprehensive review of long-term global patterns in reef recovery following bleaching events. Bringing together the results of dozens of bleaching studies, the article reports that bleaching episodes set the stage for diverse secondary impacts on reef health, including coral disease, the breakdown of reef framework, and the loss of critical habitat for reef fishes and other important marine animals.

"Bleaching has resulted in catastrophic loss of coral cover in some locations, and has changed the coral community structure in many others," said Glynn. "These dramatic fluctuations have critical impacts on the maintenance of biodiversity in the marine tropics, which is essential to the survival of many tropical and sub-tropical economies."

However, the paper also shows that, while bleaching episodes have resulted in dramatic loss of coral cover in certain locations, reefs vary dramatically in their ability to bounce back from these disturbances. It also evaluates factors explaining why some species of coral recover better than others, as well as why some reef regions are recovering whi
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Contact: Barbra Gonzalez
barbgo@rsmas.miami.edu
305-421-4704
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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Long-term recovery of reefs from bleaching requires local action to increase resilience
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