[Coral-List] GCBE3 -- potential biodiversity disaster

Gregor Hodgson gregorh at reefcheck.org
Wed Sep 23 21:00:27 EDT 2015

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.

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

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

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:

Gregor Hodgson, PhD
Executive Director
Reef Check Foundation
13723 Fiji Way, Suite B2
Marina Del Rey CA 90292 USA
T: +1 310-305-1081

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