[Coral-List] mass coral bleaching in American Samoa

Bernardo Vargas-Angel - NOAA Affiliate bernardo.vargasangel at noaa.gov
Tue Mar 3 04:04:58 EST 2015

Talofa Doug and coral-listers.

NOAA's Coral Reef Ecosystem Division is here in American Samoa conducting
our 2015 Reef Assessment and Monitoring Cruise. While we have received word
from our local partners about the current bleaching conditions around
Tutuila, these appear to mainly restricted (for now) to shallow back-reef
environs. So far we have surveyed parts of the Tafuna, Larsen Bay, and
Fagatele area, Vatia, Fagamalo, the N-NE and the east side of Aunu’u
Island. While teams of divers (Towed-diver, Fish, Benthic, and Climate)
have observed scattered bleached (ranging between 1 and 4: 1 = pale;  5 =
stark white) colonies of *Porties*, *Acropora*, and *Montastrea*, none have
reported mass bleaching conditions at any of the sites visited thus far.
Today we surveyed the SE (Alega–Au’asi) and most of the bleaching observed
was in waters less than 8 m deep, and mainly colonies of *Isopora

We'll certainly keep all those interested informed of our observations.



On Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 6:16 PM, Douglas Fenner <
douglasfennertassi at gmail.com> wrote:

>     American Samoa has a mass coral bleaching event underway, as predicted
> by the NOAA Coral Watch program website.  Currently, several species are
> widely bleached on the reef flats and in the back reef pools.  Several
> species of staghorns, and a couple species of branching Millepora (fire
> coral) are heavily and widely bleached.  At some sites, all branching
> Millepora and almost all staghorns are bleached. Most of these are strongly
> bleached.  Staghorns dominate or co-dominate many of the reef flat and back
> reef pool sites.  At other sites most staghorns are at least partly
> bleached.  A variety of other coral species have at least a few colonies
> partially bleached, and some coral species have little or no bleaching.
> Finger coral, Porites cylindrica, co-dominates some of the sites, but shows
> little if any bleaching so far.  At some sites, some of the heavily
> bleached staghorns have begun to die, with up to about 10% mortality at
> this point.  I've been surveying reef flats and pools, but have seen just
> the top of one slope site so far, which wasn't bleached.  A variety of
> other people have seen the bleaching on reef flats and in pools as well.
> Alice Lawrence and Mareike Sudek from the American Samoa Dept. Marine &
> Wildlife Resources have just returned from the small out island of Ofu, and
> reported light scattered bleaching in the pools there (which have few
> staghorns), mainly in branching Millepora.  Wendy Cover from the National
> Marine Sanctuary reports that the slope at Fagatele Bay, part of the
> American Samoa National Marine Sanctuary, has scattered partially bleached
> colonies.  She says at another site the slope had very little
> bleaching.  So far there are no reports I know of, of widespread bleaching
> on the slopes.  Staghorns are not common on the reef slopes.
>      Staghorns and branching Millepora on reef flats and pools bleach
> partially nearly every summer in American Samoa, but this is far more
> bleaching than I've seen in my eleven years living on and studying these
> islands.  There were bleaching events here in 1994, 2002, and 2003, and I
> arrived soon after the last of those.  Goreau and Hayes wrote a report for
> the 1994 bleaching event, but there is no written report for either the
> 2002 or 2003 events.
>      The NOAA Coral Reef Watch predictions for American Samoa are pretty
> dire, it looks as though in the coming months we will reach the highest
> categories they have for levels of thermal stress on corals.  It appears we
> are now in the early stages of this mass bleaching event in American
> Samoa.  It seems highly likely that it will get much worse in the coming
> months, based on the NOAA Coral Reef Watch predictions.  My own guess is
> that we will probably have extensive mortality on the reef flats and in the
> backreef pools, and extensive bleaching on the reef slopes.  But it is only
> a guess.  I hope we don't have extensive mortality on the reef slopes, but
> that is also a possibility.  Only time will tell.
>      The NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Division just arrived here on a NOAA
> ship, for a long-planned monitoring survey of the reef slopes here in
> American Samoa, they will be recording data from all of the islands of
> American Samoa.  They will be recording coral bleaching on the slopes.  It
> is fortunate that their long planned cruise here coincides with this
> bleaching event.
> My surveys of bleaching on the reef flats and in the pools are supported by
> the Climate Foundation, which is led by Dr. Brian von Herzen.
> Cheers,  Doug
> Fenner, D., and S. Heron.  2009.  Annual summer mass bleaching of a
> multi-species coral community in American Samoa.  Proceedings of the
> 11th International
> Coral Reef Symposium, Ft. Lauderdale. 1289-1293.
>     http://www.nova.edu/ncri/11icrs/proceedings/files/m25-04.pdf#zoom=100m
> --
> Douglas Fenner
> Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
> PO Box 7390
> Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA
> phone 1 684 622-7084
> "belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."
> Politics, science, and public attitudes: What we're learning, and why it
> matters.  Science Insider, open access.
> http://news.sciencemag.org/social-sciences/2015/02/politics-science-and-public-attitudes-what-we-re-learning-and-why-it-matters?utm_campaign=email-news-latest&utm_src=email
> website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner
> blog: http://ocean.si.edu/blog/reefs-american-samoa-story-hope
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*Bernardo Vargas-Ángel PhD*
*Coral Ecologist & Benthic Team Lead*
Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division
NOAA Inouye Regional Center
1845 Wasp Blvd, Bldg. # 176
Honolulu, HI 96818
Phone: 808-725-5423
Fax: 808-725-5429

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