Coral Bleaching in Space and Time

Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 233)


Widespread coral bleaching and subsequent mortality have been clearly linked to elevated sea surface temperatures. As ocean temperatures continue to increase in relation to the bleaching thresholds of corals, it has been predicted that the frequency and severity of coral bleaching will increase. This chapter analyses a comprehensive database of coral bleaching records to describe spatial and temporal patterns of bleaching since 1979. Severe global-scale bleaching events have occurred on three occasions (1998, 2010, and 2014–2017), while additional possible events in 1987 and 1983 were also identified. All of these events were associated with a severe El Niño event. Although there has been an increase in the number of bleaching reports per year since 1983, the number of confirmed severe global events is currently too small to confirm or refute the hypothesis that the frequency of these events is increasing. However, there is growing evidence that low-level bleaching has increased to the point where most regions and ocean basins are reporting some coral bleaching every year. The available data cannot, at this stage, confirm the notion that the severity of bleaching events at a global scale is increasing.



C.M.E. thanks NOAA, including the Coral Reef Watch and the Coral Reef Conservation Program, for work that contributed to this manuscript. The scientific results and conclusions, as well as any views or opinions expressed herein, are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA or the Department of Commerce. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is thanked for providing data on bleaching for the Great Barrier Reef from its Eye on the Reef Program. Barbara Brown, Janice Lough, and Madeleine van Oppen provided very helpful and thoughtful comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsville MCAustralia
  2. 2.U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Coral Reef WatchCollege ParkUSA

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