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Coral bleaching likely in Caribbean this year
Date:9/23/2010

orests of the sea," coral reefs provide services estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion globally each year.

"High temperatures cause corals to force out the symbiotic algae that provide them with food. This makes the corals appear white or 'bleached' and can increase outbreaks of infectious disease," said Mark Eakin, Ph.D., coordinator of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch. "Temperatures are high in the Caribbean, and we expect this to continue. This season has the potential to be one of the worst bleaching seasons for some reefs."

"A NOAA survey cruise just returned from the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary where we saw serious bleaching," said Emma Hickerson, sanctuary research coordinator for the site, located off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. "Several species were bleached and we are concerned we could lose much of the fire corals this year."

Even though a variety of stresses namely thermal stresses continue to rise in the Caribbean basin, temperatures are expected to begin cooling in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida. In addition, recent hurricanes and tropical storms that passed near the U.S. Virgin Islands have cooled the waters there. NOAA researchers have shown that tropical weather systems can cool the high temperatures that cause bleaching, and NOAA forecasts that this Atlantic hurricane season will probably be more active than usual.

In 2005, the year of the worst bleaching on record in the Caribbean, no tropical storms passed close enough to cool the Virgin Islands, resulting in 90 percent of the area corals being bleached and 60 percent dying. Overall the 2005 bleaching event was the result of the largest, most intense thermal stress recorded in the Caribbean during the 25-year NOAA satellite record.


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Contact: Ben Sherman
ben.sherman@noaa.gov
301-713-3066
NOAA Headquarters
Source:Eurekalert

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