Heat attenuation and nutrient delivery by localized upwelling avoided coral bleaching mortality in northern Galapagos during 2015/2016 ENSO

A Correction to this article was published on 24 May 2019

This article has been updated

Abstract

Despite a very strong El Niño Southern Oscillation in 2015/2016, no coral mortality associated with bleaching was observed at the northern Galapagos (Ecuador) Islands of Darwin and Wolf. From March 2016 to March 2018, coral cover and health as well as water chemistry (NO3 and PO43−) and temperature were recorded. A marked heat anomaly reached 30 °C at Wolf in February 2016, but peak temperatures were attenuated after 2 d by a 4 °C drop. Temperature patterns at three depths (10, 15, and 20 m) and a subsequent and persistent phytoplankton bloom suggest topographically driven upwelling as the source of colder water and dissolved inorganic nutrients—both of which helped corals endure the heating episode. Consequently, no mortality and only partial bleaching were recorded in March 2016. Partially bleached corals contained numerous healthy zooxanthellae in deeper tissue layers. A continuous temperature record from 2012 to 2014 suggests that such upwelling events are common, inducing temperature fluctuations of up to 6 °C within 24 h during the observation period. Events at Wolf in 2016 suggest local upwelling reduced coral stress by relieving heat and by delivering nutrients required by corals to retain their regular temperature tolerance.

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  • 24 May 2019

    Erratum: In the original print, the addresses of authors Wiedenmann and D’Angelo were incomplete and the acknowledgements failed to mention the Galapagos National Park and CDRS publication number. These errors are corrected herein.

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Acknowledgements

Funding by Darwin Initiative, Conservation International-Ecuador (Galapagos program and CI-ETPS), The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and by the Walton Family Foundation to the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape Transition Phase (CI CI240-560) is greatly appreciated. P.W. Glynn acknowledges US National Science Foundation support, grants OCE-1447306, OCE-9314798 and earlier awards. The authors thank K. Collins and S. Steiner for assistance with fieldwork. Cptn. Vico and the crew of RV Queen Mabel were a steadfast support through all kinds of weather. The contribution of JW and CDA was funded by NERC (NE/K00641X/1) and European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP/2007-2013/ERC Grant Agreement No. 311179). This is CDRS contribution # XXXX.

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Riegl, B., Glynn, P.W., Banks, S. et al. Heat attenuation and nutrient delivery by localized upwelling avoided coral bleaching mortality in northern Galapagos during 2015/2016 ENSO. Coral Reefs 38, 773–785 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-019-01787-8

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Keywords

  • Coral bleaching
  • ENSO
  • Galapagos
  • Upwelling
  • Nutrients
  • Reef resilience