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Scientists Explore Impact of the Worst Mass Coral Bleaching in History on Western Australia’s Reefs

Source: Science Daily/ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies - November 10, 2017 in Environment

Scientists Explore Impact of the Worst Mass Coral Bleaching in History on Western Australia’s Reefs
Photo: Ryan McMinds/Joe Pollock/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Researchers from The University of Western Australia (UWA), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and Western Australian Marine Science Institution have examined the impact of the 2016 mass bleaching event on reefs in Western Australia (WA). They found significant bleaching occurred in the inshore Kimberley region, despite Kimberley corals being known as exceptionally stress resistant. They also found mild bleaching at Rottnest Island and that the Ningaloo Reef escaped bleaching.

The 2016 mass bleaching event is the most severe global bleaching event to ever be recorded.

Coral bleaching occurs as the result of abnormal environmental conditions, such as heightened sea temperatures that cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, called ‘zooxanthellae.’ The loss of these colourful algae causes the corals to turn white, and ‘bleach’. Bleached corals can recover if the temperature drops and zooxanthellae are able to recolonise the coral, otherwise the coral may die.

The researchers, led by UWA’s Dr Verena Schoepf and Masters student Morane Le Nohaïc, conducted surveys on the health of coral reefs along the Western Australian coastline from tropical to temperate locations.

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