[Coral-List] Hawaii Coral Bleaching

Steve Coles slcoles at bishopmuseum.org
Thu Oct 1 09:29:19 EDT 2015

Dear Jim et al.

I have filed a Coral Bleaching Report with ReefBase and NOAA's Bleaching Watch concerning unprecedented bleaching that has occurred in the area of Kahe Point, West O'ahu, where I have done coral monitoring annually since 1981 and I have frequented during summer and fall months since 1973. Given the interest in bleaching during this El Nino year and the possibility that extensive bleaching may occur throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans in the coming months, I thought the members of the list might be interested in seeing the observations that I included with the report. Bleaching is also happening for the second year in a row in Kane'ohe Bay and Lanikai in Kailua on the windward side of Oahu where it is being monitored by Paul Jokiel and Cindy Hunter, but this is the first time that it has occurred on the open coast of O'ahu or, to my knowledge, elsewhere in Hawai'i.

Photos and additional details are available from me on request.

Steve Coles


I have had an annual monitoring program in the Kahe Point- Nānākuli area since 1981 where I have photographed the coral cover on 40 0.66 sq.m quadrats at four sites, and I was making weekly visits to the area from 1973 to 1985. Details about the area and changes in coral cover at the sites from 1981 to 2005 are described in *Coles and Brown (2007). This year is the first time in 42 years that I have observed coral bleaching in this area, and the bleaching I observed on September 23 was extensive, occurring to 5 m depth from Nānākuli to south of Kahe near the Ko Olina harbor channel entrance and probably beyond. Pocillopora meandrina was the species showing the most bleaching followed by massive Porites lobata and P. evermanni (lutea). Not all corals were affected at the time of the observations, but many were bleached to the point that recovery is not likely, especially for P. meandrina.

This bleaching event followed an unprecedented period of high temperatures and humidity, low cloud cover and calm winds that had affected Hawaii since June and have only recently moderated. Further bleaching will be determined by whether hot weather conditions return and persist. This is the first major bleaching event reported along this open coastline. Extensive coral bleaching occurred in Kāne‘ohe Bay in 1996 and last year in 2014 as well as off Lanikai in Kailua Bay in 2014. Again, it is unprecedented to have major bleaching anywhere in sequential years in Hawai‘i.

Future monitoring and observations will determine whether the present coral bleaching in Hawai‘i will result in substantial mortality or whether the corals remaining will develop more resistant varieties. Repeated occurrences of such thermal stress events in the future may severely challenge the viability of corals and the limited reef development that exists in Hawaiian waters.

*Coles, S. L and Brown, E. K. 2007.Twenty-five years of change in coral coverage on a hurricane impacted reef in Hawai‘i: the importance of recruitment. Coral Reefs 26:705-717.

From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov] On Behalf Of James Hendee [jim.hendee at noaa.gov]
Sent: Thursday, September 24, 2015 2:13 AM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] GCBE3 -- potential biodiversity disaster

Greetings, Coral-Listers,

    I think it would benefit a great many of us if incidences of coral
bleaching are reported to the List, and/or that anybody tracking the
incidences also post their results to the list.  This not only helps
those involved in bleach forecasting, but helps environmental managers
and policy makers know the global extent and how their regions fit into
the global picture.

    ALSO, I think it is important that people who are expecting
bleaching at their locations, due to historical bleaching incidences,
current bleaching forecasts, or due to incidences of physical factors
usually being conducive to bleaching, report incidences of *NO*
bleaching.  This helps to improve the bleaching ecoforecasts, and might
provide an indication of a more resilient region or area (worth
researching in the future).  It's also important to record or report as
much as you can on the values of environmental parameters as you can,
e.g., not only sea temperature, but if possible light (or "sunny" or
"cloudy"), currents, turbidity, winds (e.g., "doldrums" or "stormy" if
no actual wind speeds), salinity, etc.

    Finally, if you are in a position to see the progress of a bleaching
event from no bleaching to mass bleaching, knowing which species bleach
first, and at what sea temperature (and other parameters, if possible)
may be useful in the future for MPA planning.  If you find that corals
near mangroves or seagrasses are not bleaching, while other areas are,
that's an important piece of information for MPA planning.  Any
follow-up records on changes to the ecosystems are extremely valuable
(e.g., invasion of particular species, mass migration of species out of
the area, epizootics, etc.).  If you can record the event in
photographs, that will be very helpful in the future, too.


On 9/23/15 9:00 PM, Gregor Hodgson wrote:
> The 3rd Global Coral Bleaching (GCBE3) event since 1997 is underway. It
> started slowly in 2014 and will last through 2016 -- 3 years. It has already
> bleached and killed large areas of coral reef in several parts of the world,
> including Hawaii, American Samoa and Florida. Based on NOAA¹s Coral Watch
> Program the long range predictions (only released this week) are grim and
> this could be the worst event in history for parts of the IndoPacific.
> http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/bleachingoutlook_cfs/weekly_webpage
> /extended_outlook_60.php
> Parts of the Caribbean, Persian Gulf, S China and southern Baja Calif are
> bleaching (or are predicted to be) now and the Carib will experience peak
> bleaching in October/November. During early to mid- 2016, parts of Australia
> and the E Indonesia will be threatened with some of the hottest water in
> history. The GBR is threatened. Because the NOAA predictions are often
> underestimates, it is possible that in a worst case scenario as much as 25%
> of the remaining reefs in the world could be lost over the next 12 months..
> The degree and extent of the damage could affect food security and economies
> of many developing countries; Small Island Developing States are
> particularly vulnerable. The immediate damage to tourism and fisheries could
> run into billions of dollars and could affect hundreds of millions of
> people.
> At minimum, there is an urgent need to improve field tracking of GCBE3 and
> quickly deploy more teams and more frequently to measure the actual damage
> to the reefs so that the NOAA models can be better calibrated and by the end
> of 2016, we know what we have lost.
> I organized a meeting in Washington DC on September 9, 2015,  to bring
> together senior staff from international NGOs,  governments and funding
> agencies to present the NOAA evidence with Mark Eakin and to ask them to
> form a Coral Reef Coalition to oversee the emergency response to GCBE3. The
> group agreed to work together on the following goals:
> 1)   Promote the immediate use of GCBE3 to raise the profile of coral reef
> damage as a lever in the COP21 climate change negotiations.
> 2)  Provide funding to volunteer field teams to cover partial survey costs
> to better track impacts.
> 3)  Urgent/important to track management success or failure globally because
> resilience-based protections may be ineffectual in the face of GCBE3 (and
> the nextŠ).
> 4)  High priority to track coral/algal adaptation trajectory globally so
> that we know where adaptation is helping to protect corals.
> 6)  Increase PR on coral reef loss via multilingual social media, streaming
> TV.
> 7)  Create an X-prize approach to test solutions to bleaching.
> We need help to get as much information as possible on this event. Help NOAA
> to  better calibrate the models using Reef Check or other methods and send
> us the data which will be shared with the Coalition partners.
> We would like to ask interested regional labs to contact Elena Johannsen
> <ejohannsen at reefcheck.org> if they would be interested to help with the
> genetic testing of zoox.
> Reef Check is a global marine conservation organization that has trained
> field teams to monitor coral reefs in 90 countries/territories using a
> standard method for 19 years.The data are available at:
> http://data.reefcheck.us/
> Gregor Hodgson, PhD
> Executive Director
> Reef Check Foundation
> 13723 Fiji Way, Suite B2
> Marina Del Rey CA 90292 USA
> T: +1 310-305-1081
> www.reefcheck.org
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

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