, Volume 22, Issue 3, p 256

First record of mass coral bleaching in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

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Mass bleaching events have become increasingly common on coral reefs throughout the world (Williams and Bunkley-Williams 1990; Berkelmans and Oliver 1999) and now, for the first time, have been observed in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). During a September 2002 survey expedition to the NWHI, we observed substantial bleaching (greater than 20% of the corals) on reefs at the three northwestern-most atolls of the Hawaiian Archipelago: Kure, Midway, and Pearl and Hermes. There was lesser bleaching on reefs at two adjacent islands: Lisianski and Maro. In areas where bleaching was occurring, visual estimates of the extent of bleaching ranged from 20 to 100% of the most common corals (Fig. 1). Prior surveys in the NWHI between 1980 and 2001 found little evidence of bleaching, although minor bleaching of corals was reported in 1996 in the main Hawaiian Islands (Maragos 2000).Fig. 1.

Bleached Montipora capitata and unbleached Montipora turgescens (purple encrusting colony) on a reef i