Thermal stress markers in Colpophyllia natans provide an archive of site-specific bleaching events
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Tropical coral reef monitoring relies heavily on in situ diver observations. However, in many reef regions resources are not available to regularly monitor reefs. This lack of historical baseline data makes it difficult to determine how different reefs respond to environmental stressors and what the implications are for management. To test whether coral cores could be used to identify bleaching events retrospectively, three sites in Tobago with pre-existing reef data including water quality and bleaching observations were identified. Colpophyllia natans cores were examined for growth anomalies which occurred during periods of thermal stress. If present, anomalies were compared to in situ, real-time bleaching observations and water quality data. Interestingly, sites with better water quality during the 2005 thermal anomaly were less prone to bleaching. We suggest that by reducing terrestrial run-off (e.g., sediment and nutrients), and therefore improving marine water quality, reef managers could enhance near-shore coral reef resilience during high-temperature events.
KeywordsSclerochronology Caribbean Temperature anomaly Terrestrial runoff Monitoring Reef management
J.M. was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Award, a University of the West Indies Postdoctoral Award, The Buccoo Reef Trust and their Integrating Watershed and Coastal Areas Management Program funded by the Global Environment Facility. J.H. was funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery grant. We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive feedback.
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