, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 505-513
Date: 04 Jan 2013

Susceptibility of central Red Sea corals during a major bleaching event

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Abstract

A major coral bleaching event occurred in the central Red Sea near Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, in the summer of 2010, when the region experienced up to 10–11 degree heating weeks. We documented the susceptibility of various coral taxa to bleaching at eight reefs during the peak of this thermal stress. Oculinids and agaricids were most susceptible to bleaching, with up to 100 and 80 % of colonies of these families, respectively, bleaching at some reefs. In contrast, some families, such as mussids, pocilloporids, and pectinids showed low levels of bleaching (<20 % on average). We resurveyed the reefs 7 months later to estimate subsequent mortality. Mortality was highly variable among taxa, with some taxa showing evidence of full recovery and some (e.g., acroporids) apparently suffering nearly complete mortality. The unequal mortality among families resulted in significant change in community composition following the bleaching. Significant factors in the likelihood of coral bleaching during this event were depth of the reef and distance of the reef from shore. Shallow reefs and inshore reefs had a higher prevalence of bleaching. This bleaching event shows that Red Sea reefs are subject to the same increasing pressures that reefs face worldwide. This study provides a quantitative, genus-level assessment of the vulnerability of various coral groups from within the Red Sea to bleaching and estimates subsequent mortality. As such, it can provide valuable insights into the future for reef communities in the Red Sea.

Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Hugh Sweatman