Abstract on Belize bleaching, 1995 (fwd)

Coral Health and Monitoring Program coral at aoml.noaa.gov
Mon Mar 3 12:00:52 EST 1997

Sorry for the delay, but here is an interesting abstract from Collette

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 14:53:34 -0500
From: Collette Burke <burke at twsuvm.uc.twsu.edu>
To: coral at aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: abstract on Belize bleaching, 1995

        The 1995 coral bleaching event in the western Caribbean was the
first that significantly affected the Belize Barrier Reef.  The bleaching
was attributed to a two month period of warm water temperatures between 32
and 34 degrees in shallow back reef areas. Near Ambergris Caye,barrier and
patch reefs along the coast experienced up to 50% bleaching. At Mexico
Rocks Patch Reef Complex (MRPRC), important changes in reef health,
community and physical structure occurred, probably owing to the 1995
bleaching event.

     During the years 1988-1993, 23 patch reefs of the MRPRC were mapped,
geologically analyzed, and ecologically surveyed.  The zone was
characterized ecologically and taxonomically as a stony, head coral
complex.  MRPRC consisted of 83% healthy, well-colored, framework-building
head corals. Other reef-building taxa and reef dwelling, invertebrate taxa
were of secondary importance. During this interval, the MRPRC exhibited
24% degradation of reef surfaces and 5.3% cavity development.

     22 of the MRPRC patches were resurveyed in March 1996, after the
bleaching event.  Less than 1% of the complex is currently experiencing
bleaching. Comparison of the pre- and post-bleaching degradation values
indicates that degradation increased and coral cover decreased 13%,
indicating high coral mortality.  The secondary disturbances that can
follow coral mortality associated with a bleaching event are present in
the complex, including an increase in algal cover and subsequent herbivory
that erodes the reef framework. The full impact of this bleaching event
may not be concluded for years, and may have implications for
interpretation of reefs in the fossil record.

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