[Coral-List] Bleaching refuges

Paul Muir paul.muir at qm.qld.gov.au
Mon Mar 28 19:40:03 EDT 2016

I proposed this idea many years ago (~2005!) on coral list and am wondering if anyone ever tried anything like this? Given the current bleaching on the northern GBR and likelihood of other areas being hit soon perhaps it's worth someone doing a trial? Desperate times.. 

Severe coral bleaching events can cause very high levels of coral morality and the recovery of reefs following such events can be very slow. For example, recovery of corals in the Seychelles Islands following the severe 1998 bleaching event was extremely slow and regional extinction of some species a possibility. Localised extinctions and slow recovery could be mitigated if small areas of reef were protected during bleaching events: corals have extremely high  fecundity and only a few healthy individuals of each species would needed to accelerate recovery. Field observations and studies of the physiology of coral bleaching suggest that shading corals during a high temperature event can reduce mortality rates. Small areas of reef (to 10,000m2 area) could be provided with moderate shading by the use of floating covers similar to those used in farm dams and industrial ponds. Such covers are light, float upon the water surface and could be rapidly deployed from a small boat during a high-temperature event. The covers would be held in place with small anchors and inflatable seams would provide a flexible, semi-rigid structure that would resist small waves and swells at a protected site. High temperature bleaching events typically occur during very flat, calm conditions over just a few weeks which makes deploying floating covers such as this feasible. Real-time monitoring of the development of bleaching conditions and small-scale engineering solutions may become increasingly important for the preservation of thermally sensitive species at local scales.

I can supply some ideas for a test-scale floating cover on request.  

Dr. Paul Muir
Research Officer/ Collection Manager Corals, Biodiversity & Geosciences Program

Museum of Tropical Queensland | Queensland Museum
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Affiliate, Global Change Institute, University of Queensland
ResearchGate | Google Scholar | Staghorn Corals Website

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