Thermal stress and tropical reefs: mass coral bleaching in a stable temperature environment?
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This study reports on the deepest records (~ 24 m depth) of coral bleaching in a naturally temperature-stable environment (> 26 °C with an intra-annual variability of ~ 2 °C), which was recorded during a mass bleaching event in the locally dominant, massive scleractinian coral Siderastrea stellata in equatorial waters of Brazil (SW Atlantic). An inter-annual analysis (2002–2017) indicated that this bleaching event was related to anomalies in sea surface temperature (SST) that led to the warmest year (2010) in this century (1 to 1.7 °C above average). Such anomalies caused heat stress (28.5–29.5 °C) in this equatorial environment that resulted in a bleaching event. Our results suggest that the increase in SST, low turbidity, and weak winds may have acted together to affect these stress-tolerant corals in marginal reefs. The equatorial coastline of Brazil is characterized by low intra-annual and inter-annual variations in SST, which suggests that the S. stellata corals here may be acclimatized to these stable conditions and, consequently, have a lower bleaching threshold because of lower historical heat stress.
KeywordsENSO Coral reef Temperature Climate change Siderastrea stellata Brazil
We appreciate the constructive comments made by two anonymous reviewers on the manuscript.
MOS and TT conceived and coordinated the study, analyzed coral species and remote sensing data, participated in its design, and helped to write and revise the manuscript. MD, SF, BP, MM, and AG executed the study and revised the manuscript. CEPT helped to write and revise the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Financial support was provided by the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico — CNPq (Grants 233808/2014-0 and 307061/2017), CAPES-PRINT Program, Projeto CORAL VIVO, PRONEX FUNCAP/CNPq (Grant PR2-0101-00008.01.00/15), and INCT AmbTropic (National Institute of Science and Technology for the Tropical Marine Environment).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
No animal testing was performed during this study.
Sampling and field studies
All necessary permits for sampling and observational field studies have been obtained by the authors from the competent authorities and are mentioned in the acknowledgments, if applicable. The study is compliant with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Nagoya Protocol.
The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available as supplementary material.
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