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Bleaching, coral mortality and subsequent survivorship on a West Australian fringing reef

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to M. Depczynski.

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Communicated by Ecology Editor Prof. Mark Hay

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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

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Keywords

  • Coral bleaching
  • Coral reef disturbance
  • Western Australia
  • Ningaloo Reef
  • Bundegi
  • Size-class susceptibility