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Smithsonian reports regional sea temperature rise and coral bleaching event in Western Caribbean
Date:10/12/2010

curs when corals lose their color as a result of the loss of their algal component, which is caused by increased water temperature or other stress factors. Bleaching impairs vital functions of the coral such as reproduction and growth.

With prolonged warming, corals begin to die releasing great quantities of mucous resulting in increasingly turbid waters. Oxygen levels may fall as bacteria and fungi proliferate. Anoxic conditions affect fish and coastal productivity. STRI has monitored the water column to a depth of 20 meters at 23 sites. "Dissolved oxygen dropped to less than 3 milligrams per liter at 10 meters and nearly zero milligrams per liter at the bottom," said STRI technician Plinio Gondola, who recorded the measurements. It is still not clear if temperature rise is directly related to bleaching and anoxia at this site.

The images show ocean temperatures in September 2009 and in 2010. Increasing intensity of orange towards red indicates warming on a regional scale. The final outcome of this event is uncertain. A similar event in 2005 in the wider Caribbean included intense bleaching in Panama. However, mortality was less that 12 percent in this zone and reefs have been relatively resilient. In Guzman's opinion, hurricane season may be enhancing the current problem, resulting in low water circulation in the Southwestern Caribbean and thus creating a "warm pocket" of water along the coasts of Panama and Costa Rica.


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Contact: Beth King
kingb@si.edu
703-487-3770 x8216
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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Smithsonian reports regional sea temperature rise and coral bleaching event in Western Caribbean
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