Climate change disables coral bleaching protection on the Great Barrier Reef

Ainsworth, Tracy D., Heron, Scott F., Ortiz, Juan Carlos, Mumby, Peter J., Grech, Alana, Ogawa, Daisie, Eakin, C. Mark, and Leggat, William (2016) Climate change disables coral bleaching protection on the Great Barrier Reef. Science, 352 (6283). pp. 338-342.

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Abstract

Coral bleaching events threaten the sustainability of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Here we show that bleaching events of the past three decades have been mitigated by induced thermal tolerance of reef-building corals, and this protective mechanism is likely to be lost under near-future climate change scenarios. We show that 75% of past thermal stress events have been characterized by a temperature trajectory that subjects corals to a protective, sub-bleaching stress, before reaching temperatures that cause bleaching. Such conditions confer thermal tolerance, decreasing coral cell mortality and symbiont loss during bleaching by over 50%. We find that near-future increases in local temperature of as little as 0.5°C result in this protective mechanism being lost, which may increase the rate of degradation of the GBR.

Item ID: 45242
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
ISSN: 1095-9203
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
Projects and Grants: ARC DP130101421, ARC FS110200046, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies CE0561435
Research Data: http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/publications/AinsworthEtAl_2016.php, http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.3081064.v1
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2016 02:26
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 90%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 10%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960303 Climate Change Models @ 100%
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