Validation of reef-scale thermal stress satellite products for coral bleaching monitoring

Heron, Scott F., Johnston, Lyza, Liu, Gang, Geiger, Erick F., Maynard, Jeffrey A., De La Cour, Jacqueline L., Johnson, Steven, Okano, Ryan, Benavente, David, Burgess, Timothy F.R., Iguel, John, Perez, Denise I., Skirving, William J., Strong, Alan E., Tirak, Kyle, and Eakin, C. Mark (2016) Validation of reef-scale thermal stress satellite products for coral bleaching monitoring. Remote Sensing, 8. pp. 59-75.

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Satellite monitoring of thermal stress on coral reefs has become an essential component of reef management practice around the world. A recent development by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch (NOAA CRW) program provides daily global monitoring at 5 km resolution—at or near the scale of most coral reefs. In this paper, we introduce two new monitoring products in the CRW Decision Support System for coral reef management: Regional Virtual Stations, a regional synthesis of thermal stress conditions, and Seven-day Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Trend, describing recent changes in temperature at each location. We describe how these products provided information in support of management activities prior to, during and after the 2014 thermal stress event in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Using in situ survey data from this event, we undertake the first quantitative comparison between 5 km satellite monitoring products and coral bleaching observations. Analysis of coral community characteristics, historical temperature conditions and thermal stress revealed a strong influence of coral biodiversity in the patterns of observed bleaching. This resulted in a model based on thermal stress and generic richness that explained 97% of the variance in observed bleaching. These findings illustrate the importance of using local benthic characteristics to interpret the level of impact from thermal stress exposure. In an era of continuing climate change, accurate monitoring of thermal stress and prediction of coral bleaching are essential for stakeholders to direct resources to the most effective management actions to conserve coral reefs.

Item ID: 42891
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2072-4292
Keywords: coral reef; coral bleaching; sea surface temperature; SST; satellite; thermal stress; NOAA Coral Reef Watch; Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; CNMI; coastal and marine management; coral diversity
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© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons by Attribution(CC-BY) license (

Funders: NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2016 03:37
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 100%
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