, Volume 655, Issue 1, pp 99–108 | Cite as

Assessing coral bleaching and recovery with a colour reference card in Watamu Marine Park, Kenya

  • Simone MontanoEmail author
  • Davide Seveso
  • Paolo Galli
  • David O. Obura
Primary research paper


With this study we estimated the changes in colour, bleaching and mortality of coral colonies from February to December 2007, using the colour reference card method. The study was developed in the Watamu Marine Park lagoon (Kenya), bridging the local summer when seawater temperatures were highest and coral bleaching risk was at its maximum. Seven coral genera were selected, and their colour recorded using a colour reference card (Coral Watch card). Seven different scenarios of bleaching and mortality were observed, varying among the coral genera and between two species in the genus Pocillopora. Twenty percent of the colonies bleached, of which 50% died. Only 15% of the coral that did not bleach died. Branching genera had a higher bleaching incidence than massive and sub-massive genera. Pocillopora showed the highest bleaching susceptibility, followed by Acropora, and the highest level of mortality. Of the two species of Pocillopora considered in this study, P. eydouxi showed higher bleaching and mortality levels, while P. verrucosa bleached less and experienced only partial mortality. Our results evidenced different patterns of coral bleaching and mortality which were easily and clearly detected with the colour card method during both bleaching and a post-bleaching events.


Coral bleaching Reference card Pocillopora Watamu Marine Park 



We are thankful to CORDIO (Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for the scientific support. We are grateful to Ms. Ellen Bermann for hospitality and for technical support. Finally we express our gratitude to Francesca Benzoni for her support and help throughout the study.


  1. Baker, A. C., 2003. Flexibility and specificity in coral–algal symbiosis: diversity, ecology and biogeography of Symbiodinium. Annual Review of Ecological System 34: 661–689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brown, B. E., 1997. Coral bleaching: causes and consequences. Coral Reefs 16: 129–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Clarke, K. R. & R. N. Gorley, 2001. PRIMER v5 user manual/tutorial. PRIMER-E Ltd., Plymouth.Google Scholar
  4. Coles, S. L. & B. E. Brown, 2003. Coral bleaching-capacity for acclimatization and adaption. Advance in Marine Biology 46: 183–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fitt, W. K., B. E. Brown, M. E. Warner & R. P. Dunne, 2001. Coral bleaching: interpretation of thermal tolerance limits and thermal thresholds in tropical corals. Coral Reefs 20: 51–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gleason, M. G., 1993. Effects of disturbance on coral communities: bleaching in Moorea, French Polynesia. Coral Reefs 12: 193–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Glynn, P. W., 1990. Coral mortality and disturbances to coral reefs in the tropical eastern Pacific. In Glynn, P. W. (ed.), Global Ecological Consequences of the 1982–83 El Nino-Southern Oscillation. Elsevier, Amsterdam: 55–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Glynn, P. W., 1993. Coral-reef bleaching-ecological perspectives. Coral Reefs 12: 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hoegh-Guldberg, O., 1999. Climate change, coral bleaching and the future of the world’s coral reefs. Marine Freshwater Research 50: 839–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hoegh-Guldberg, O. & B. Salvat, 1995. Periodic mass bleaching of reef corals along the outer reef slope in Moorea, French Polynesia. Marine Ecology Progress Series 121: 181–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hoegh-Guldberg, O. & G. J. Smith, 1989. The effect of sudden changes in temperature, irradiance and salinity on the population density and export of zooxanthellae from the reef corals Stylophora pistillata (Esper 1797) and Seriatopora hystrix (Dana 1846). Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 129: 279–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hughes, T. P., A. H. Baird, D. R. Bellwood, M. Card, S. R. Connoly, C. Folke, R. Grosberg, O. Hoegh-Guldberg, J. B. C. Jackson, J. Kleypas, J. M. Lough, P. Marshall, M. Nystrom, S. R. Palumbi, J. M. Pandolfi, B. Rosen & J. Roughgarden, 2003. Climate Change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs. Science 301: 929–933.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Jokiel, P. L. & S. L. Coles, 1990. Response of Hawaiian and other Indo-Pacific reef corals to elevated temperature. Coral Reefs 8: 155–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kaunda-Arara, B. & G. A. Rose, 2004. Effects of marine reef National Parks on fishery CPUE in coastal Kenya. Biological Conservation 118: 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kayanne, H., S. Harii, Y. Ide & F. Akimoto, 2002. Recovery of coral populations after the 1998 bleaching on Shiraho Reef, in the southern Ryukyus, NW Pacific. Marine Ecology Progress Series 239: 93–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Loya, Y., K. Sakai, K. Yamazato, Y. Nakano, H. Sambali & R. van Woesik, 2001. Coral bleaching: the winners and the losers. Ecology Letters 4: 122–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Marshall, P. A. & A. H. Baird, 2000. Bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef: differential susceptibilities among taxa. Coral reefs 19: 155–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McClanahan, T. R., 1988. Seasonality in East Africa’s coastal waters. Marine Ecology Progress Series 44: 191–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. McClanahan, T. R., 2004. The relationship between bleaching and mortality of common corals. Marine Biology 144: 1239–1245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McClanahan, T. R., A. H. Baird, P. A. Marshall & M. A. Toscano, 2004. Comparing bleaching and mortality responses of hard corals between southern Kenya and the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Pollution Bulletin 48: 327–335.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. McClanahan, T. R., M. Atewebheran, C. Muhando, J. Maina & S. Mohammed, 2007. Effects of climate and seawater temperature variation on coral bleaching and mortality. Ecological Monographs 77(4): 503–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McClanahan, T. R., M. Ateweberhan & J. Omukoto, 2008. Long-term changes in coral colony size distributions on Kenyan reefs under different management regimes and across the 1998 bleaching event. Marine Biology 153: 755–768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Obura, D., 1995. Environmental stress and life history strategies, a case study of corals and river sediment from Malindi, Kenya. PhD thesis, University of Miami, Miami, FL.Google Scholar
  24. Obura, D., 2001. Can differential bleaching and mortality among coral species offer useful indicators for assessment and management of reefs under stress? Bulletin of Marine Science 6: 421–442.Google Scholar
  25. Obura, D., 2005a. Resilience and climate change: lessons from coral reefs and bleaching in the Western Indian Ocean. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 63(3): 353–72Google Scholar
  26. Obura, D., 2005b. Kenya, coral reef resilience studies. In Souter, D., O. Linden, D. Wilhemsson, D. Obura & D (eds), Coral Reef Degradation in the Indian Ocean. Status Reports 2005. CORDIO/SAREC Marine Science Program, Stockholm: 25–31.Google Scholar
  27. Obura, D., 2009a. Reef corals bleach to resist stress. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58: 206–212.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Obura, D., 2009b. Bleaching as a life history trait in coral-zooxanthellae holobionts—relevance to acclimatization and adaptation. In Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 7–11 July 2008.Google Scholar
  29. Siebeck, U. E., N. J. Marshall, A. Kluter & O. Hoegh-Guldberg, 2006. Monitoring coral bleaching using a colour reference card. Coral Reefs 25: 453–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simone Montano
    • 1
    Email author
  • Davide Seveso
    • 1
  • Paolo Galli
    • 1
  • David O. Obura
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biotechnologies and BiosciencesUniversity of Milan-BicoccaMilanItaly
  2. 2.CORDIO East AfricaMombasaKenya

Personalised recommendations