The spring and summer of 2010/11 saw an exceptionally strong La Niña push warm waters from Indonesia down the Western Australian coastline, resulting in a host of extraordinary biological oddities including significant bleaching of Western Australian corals. Here, we report a 79–92 % decline in coral cover for a location in the Ningaloo Marine Park where sustained high water temperatures over an 8-month period left just 1–6 % of corals alive. The severity of bleaching provided an opportunity to investigate the resilience of different taxonomic groups and colony size classes to an acute but protracted episode of thermal stress. While the sub-dominant community of massive growth forms fared reasonably well, the dominant Acropora and Montipora assemblages all died, with the exception of the <10 cm size class, which seemed immune to bleaching.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Abrego D, Van Oppen MJH, Willis BL (2009) Onset of algal endosymbiont specificity varies among closely related species of Acropora corals during early ontogeny. Mol Ecol 18:3532–3543
Baird AH, Bhagooli R, Ralph PJ, Takahashi S (2009) Coral bleaching: the role of the host. TREE 24:16–20
Eakin C, Lough J, Heron S (2009) Climate variability and change: monitoring data and evidence for increased coral bleaching stress. Coral Bleaching 205:41–67
Gilmour JP (2004) Size-structures of populations of the mushroom coral Fungia fungites: the role of disturbance. Coral Reefs 23:493–504
Goreau T, McClanahan T, Hayes R, Strong A (2000) Conservation of corals after the 1998 global bleaching event. Conserv Biol 14:5–15
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (2009) Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2009, Townsville, p 141
Guest JR, Baird AH, Maynard JA, Muttaqin E, Edwards J, Campbell SJ, Yewdall K, Affendi YA, Chou LM (2010) Contrasting patterns of coral bleaching susceptibility in 2010 suggest an adaptive response to thermal stress. PLoS ONE 7:e33353. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033353
Hoegh-Guldberg O (1999) Climate change, coral bleaching and the future of the world’s coral reefs. Marine Freshw Research 50:839–866
Hughes TP, Baird AH, Bellwood DR, Card M, Connolly SR, Folke C, Grosberg R, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Jackson JBC, Kleypas J, Lough JM, Marshall P, Nystrom N, Palumbi SR, Pandolfi JM, Rosen B, Roughgarden J (2003) Climate change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs. Science 301:929–933
Jonker M, Johns K, Osborne K (2008) Surveys of benthic reef communities using underwater digital photography and counts of juvenile corals. Australian Institute of Marine Science SOP 10. Townsville, Australia, p 85
Little AF, van Oppen MJH, Willis BL (2004) Flexibility in algal endosymbiosis shape growth in reef corals. Science 304:1492–1494
Loya Y, Sakai K, Yamazato Y, Nakano H, Sambali H, van Woesik R (2001) Coral bleaching: the winners and the losers. Ecol Lett 4:122–131
Marshall PA, Baird AH (2000) Bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef: differential susceptibilities among taxa. Coral Reefs 19:155–163
McClanahan TR (2004) The relationship between bleaching and mortality of common corals. Mar Biol 144:1239–1245
Mumby PJ (1999) Bleaching and hurricane disturbances to populations of coral recruits in Belize. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 190:27–35
Nakamura T, van Woesik R (2001) Water-flow rates and passive diffusion partially explain differential survival of corals during the 1998 bleaching event. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 212:301–304
Pandolfi JM, Bradbury RH, Sala E, Hughes TP, Bjorndal KA, Cooke RG, McArdle D, McClenachan L, Newman MJH, Pareded G, Warner RR, Jackson JBC (2003) Global trajectories of the long-term decline of coral reef ecosystems. Science 301:955–958
Pearce A, Lenanton R, Jackson G, Moore J, Feng M, Gaughan D (2011) The “marine heat wave” off Western Australia during the summer of 2010/11. Fisheries research report no. 222. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia, p 40
Salih A, Larkum A, Cox G, Kuhl M, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2000) Fluorescent pigments in corals are photoreceptive. Nature 408:850–853
Smith LD, Gilmour JP, Heyward AJ (2008) Resilience of coral communities on an isolated system of reefs following catastrophic mass-bleaching. Coral Reefs 27:197–205
Thomson DP, Bearham D, Graham F, Eagle JV (2011) High latitude, deep water coral bleaching at Rottnest Island. Western Australia. Coral Reefs 30:1107
Twiggs EJ, Collins LB (2010) Development and demise of a fringing coral reef during Holocene environmental change, eastern Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Mar Geol 275:20–36
van Woesik R, Sakai K, Ganase A, Loya Y (2011) Revisiting the winners and the losers a decade after coral bleaching. Mar Ecol Prog Ser: 67–76
Wernberg T, Smale DA, Tuya F, Thomsen MS, Langlois TJ, de Bettignies T, Bennett S, Rousseaux CS (2012) An extreme climatic event alters marine ecosystem structure in a global biodiversity hotspot. Nature Climate Change. doi:10.1038
We are grateful to the Western Australian Marine Science Institution for funding, Department of Environment and Conservation Exmouth regional staff for field logistics and our reviewers and editors.
Communicated by Ecology Editor Prof. Mark Hay
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Depczynski, M., Gilmour, J.P., Ridgway, T. et al. Bleaching, coral mortality and subsequent survivorship on a West Australian fringing reef. Coral Reefs 32, 233–238 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-012-0974-0
- Coral bleaching
- Coral reef disturbance
- Western Australia
- Ningaloo Reef
- Size-class susceptibility