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Neal, BP, Khen A, Treibitz T, Beijbom O, O'Connor G, Coffroth MA, Knowlton N, Kriegman D, Mitchell BG, Kline DI.  2017.  Caribbean massive corals not recovering from repeated thermal stress events during 2005-2013. Ecology and Evolution. 7:1339-1353.   10.1002/ece3.2706   AbstractWebsite

Massive coral bleaching events associated with high sea surface temperatures are forecast to become more frequent and severe in the future due to climate change. Monitoring colony recovery from bleaching disturbances over multiyear time frames is important for improving predictions of future coral community changes. However, there are currently few multiyear studies describing long-term outcomes for coral colonies following acute bleaching events. We recorded colony pigmentation and size for bleached and unbleached groups of co-located conspecifics of three major reef-building scleractinian corals (Orbicella franksi, Siderastrea siderea, and Stephanocoenia michelini; n=198 total) in Bocas del Toro, Panama, during the major 2005 bleaching event and then monitored pigmentation status and changes live tissue colony size for 8years (2005-2013). Corals that were bleached in 2005 demonstrated markedly different response trajectories compared to unbleached colony groups, with extensive live tissue loss for bleached corals of all species following bleaching, with mean live tissue losses per colony 9 months postbleaching of 26.2% (+/- 5.4 SE) for O. franksi, 35.7% (+/- 4.7 SE) for S. michelini, and 11.2% (+/- 3.9 SE) for S. siderea. Two species, O. franksi and S. michelini, later recovered to net positive growth, which continued until a second thermal stress event in 2010. Following this event, all species again lost tissue, with previously unbleached colony species groups experiencing greater declines than conspecific sample groups, which were previously bleached, indicating a possible positive acclimative response. However, despite this beneficial effect for previously bleached corals, all groups experienced substantial net tissue loss between 2005 and 2013, indicating that many important Caribbean reef-building corals will likely suffer continued tissue loss and may be unable to maintain current benthic coverage when faced with future thermal stress forecast for the region, even with potential benefits from bleaching-related acclimation.

Eakin, CM, Morgan JA, Heron SF, Smith TB, Liu G, Alvarez-Filip L, Baca B, Bartels E, Bastidas C, Bouchon C, Brandt M, Bruckner AW, Bunkley-Williams L, Cameron A, Causey BD, Chiappone M, Christensen TRL, Crabbe MJC, Day O, de la Guardia E, Diaz-Pulido G, DiResta D, Gil-Agudelo DL, Gilliam DS, Ginsburg RN, Gore S, Guzman HM, Hendee JC, Hernandez-Delgado EA, Husain E, Jeffrey CFG, Jones RJ, Jordan-Dahlgren E, Kaufman LS, Kline DI, Kramer PA, Lang JC, Lirman D, Mallela J, Manfrino C, Marechal JP, Marks K, Mihaly J, Miller WJ, Mueller EM, Muller EM, Toro CAO, Oxenford HA, Ponce-Taylor D, Quinn N, Ritchie KB, Rodriguez S, Ramirez AR, Romano S, Samhouri JF, Sanchez JA, Schmahl GP, Shank BV, Skirving WJ, Steiner SCC, Villamizar E, Walsh SM, Walter C, Weil E, Williams EH, Roberson KW, Yusuf Y.  2010.  Caribbean Corals in Crisis: Record Thermal Stress, Bleaching, and Mortality in 2005. Plos One. 5   10.1371/journal.pone.0013969   AbstractWebsite

Background: The rising temperature of the world's oceans has become a major threat to coral reefs globally as the severity and frequency of mass coral bleaching and mortality events increase. In 2005, high ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean resulted in the most severe bleaching event ever recorded in the basin. Methodology/Principal Findings: Satellite-based tools provided warnings for coral reef managers and scientists, guiding both the timing and location of researchers' field observations as anomalously warm conditions developed and spread across the greater Caribbean region from June to October 2005. Field surveys of bleaching and mortality exceeded prior efforts in detail and extent, and provided a new standard for documenting the effects of bleaching and for testing nowcast and forecast products. Collaborators from 22 countries undertook the most comprehensive documentation of basin-scale bleaching to date and found that over 80% of corals bleached and over 40% died at many sites. The most severe bleaching coincided with waters nearest a western Atlantic warm pool that was centered off the northern end of the Lesser Antilles. Conclusions/Significance: Thermal stress during the 2005 event exceeded any observed from the Caribbean in the prior 20 years, and regionally-averaged temperatures were the warmest in over 150 years. Comparison of satellite data against field surveys demonstrated a significant predictive relationship between accumulated heat stress (measured using NOAA Coral Reef Watch's Degree Heating Weeks) and bleaching intensity. This severe, widespread bleaching and mortality will undoubtedly have long-term consequences for reef ecosystems and suggests a troubled future for tropical marine ecosystems under a warming climate.