Coral Reefs

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 441–454 | Cite as

The effects of sea surface temperature anomalies on oceanic coral reef systems in the southwestern tropical Atlantic

  • B. P. Ferreira
  • M. B. S. F. Costa
  • M. S. Coxey
  • A. L. B. Gaspar
  • D. Veleda
  • M. Araujo


In 2010, high sea surface temperatures that were recorded in several parts of the world and caused coral bleaching and coral mortality were also recorded in the southwest Atlantic Ocean, between latitudes 0°S and 8°S. This paper reports on coral bleaching and diseases in Rocas Atoll and Fernando de Noronha archipelago and examines their relationship with sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies recorded by PIRATA buoys located at 8°S30°W, 0°S35°W, and 0°S23°W. Adjusted satellite data were used to derive SST climatological means at buoy sites and to derive anomalies at reef sites. The whole region was affected by the elevated temperature anomaly that persisted through 2010, reaching 1.67 °C above average at reef sites and 1.83 °C above average at buoys sites. A significant positive relationship was found between the percentage of coral bleaching that was observed on reef formations and the corresponding HotSpot SST anomaly recorded by both satellite and buoys. These results indicate that the warming observed in the ocean waters was followed by a warming at the reefs. The percentage of bleached corals persisting after the subsidence of the thermal stress, and disease prevalence increased through 2010, after two periods of thermal stress. The in situ temperature anomaly observed during the 2009–2010 El Niño event was equivalent to the anomaly observed during the 1997–1998 El Niño event, explaining similar bleaching intensity. Continued monitoring efforts are necessary to further assess the relationship between bleaching severity and PIRATA SST anomalies and improve the use of this new dataset in future regional bleaching predictions.


Coral bleaching Coral disease Satellite remote sensing PIRATA Project 



For funding and field support, the authors thank the Brazilian Ministry of Environment, Coastal Reefs Institute, Institute Chico Mendes of Biodiversity, Wetlands for the Future (Grant WFF/08/BR/1), CAPES, Atlantis Divers and CNPq (BIO-NE, Grant 558143/2009-1). For invaluable help in the field and in various aspects of this manuscript, we thank Mauro Maida, Bernadete Barbosa, Caroline Feitosa, Catia Barbosa, Dráusio Véras, Eduardo Macedo, Fabiana Cesar, Fábio Borges, Fábio Negrão, Henrique Maranhão, Ivonilson Goes, Jarian Dantas, Lola Fritzche, Marta Granville, Maurizélia Brito, Natan Pereira, Ronaldo Francini-Filho, and Zaira Matheus. We thank three anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. P. Ferreira
    • 1
  • M. B. S. F. Costa
    • 1
    • 3
  • M. S. Coxey
    • 2
  • A. L. B. Gaspar
    • 4
  • D. Veleda
    • 1
    • 3
  • M. Araujo
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento de OceanografiaUniversidade Federal de PernambucoRecifeBrazil
  2. 2.Instituto Recifes CosteirosTamandaréBrazil
  3. 3.Center for Risk Analysis and Environmental ModelingUniversidade Federal de PernambucoRecifeBrazil
  4. 4.Departamento de GeoquímicaUniversidade Federal FluminenseNiteróiBrazil

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