Coral bleaching in Fiji

Ed Lovell lovell at
Mon Feb 18 13:33:48 EST 2002

Dear Coral-list,

The recent high SST’s  have resulted in initial coral bleaching in Fiji. The
phenomenon is  just beginning (14/2/02)  near Suva, Vanua Levu,  and is more
advanced on  the north side of Viti Levu. Unlike  the 2000 event, the degree
of temperature elevation from the  NOAA SST observations has been greater to
north of the main island, Viti Levu.

We have  just had about 1.5  weeks of clear skies  and intense sun. There is
now  a thermocline  at 3-5m  in the  Suva area,  which is unusual  for Fiji.
Temperatures are 310 -31.60C above the thermocline and less  than 300C below
it  (to17m).  Bleaching  is  confined to  reef  crests  that  are above  the

Susceptible taxa that are  showing signs of paling are: Acropora, Stylophora
Pocillopora,  Pavona clavus,  Hydnophora.  The amount  of bleaching  at this
stage is less than  1% of colonies and few are white, most are just starting
to pale.  An abundance of small  colonies has recruited after  the 2000 mass
bleaching. None of these small colonies exhibit bleaching.

The weather  is now cloudy for the first time in  1.5 weeks.  A tropical low
is  deepening in  near Fiji, which  should cause  the cooling of  the SST's.

Fijian reefs have exhibited coral bleaching for five years. Relatively minor
bleaching  occurred  for  two  years before  the  major  bleaching of  2000.
Bleaching in  2001 was extensive in some  areas but, generally, the nation's
reefs were spared by  the cooling influence of Cyclone Paula. Unfortunately,
extensive damage was done  along the southern coasts by the associated large
wave event  which removed living coral down to 10m,  in some cases, and much
of the dead standing coral from the year 2000 bleaching mortality.

Edward R. Lovell
Biological Consultants, Fiji
PO Box 3129, Lami, Fiji
Ph./Fax (679) 361358
Email: lovell at

Robyn Cumming


Email: cumming_r at

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