Coral bleaching in Fiji
lovell at is.com.fj
Mon Feb 18 13:33:48 EST 2002
The recent high SSTs 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 is.com.fj
Email: cumming_r at usp.ac.fj
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