Subsurface seawater temperature variation and the recovery of corals from the 1993 coral bleaching event in waters off St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Abstract:In October 1993, a minor coral bleaching event, restricted primarily to colonies of Montastraea annularis, occurred on reefs of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI). A comparison of subsurface water temperatures between 1993 and 1992 (when bleaching did not occurred) revealed that the mean annual water temperature was higher in 1993, but the number of hours when the temperature exceeded 29.1°C was less. To determine the rate and extent of recovery of bleached Montastraea, colonies on Saba Island off St. Thomas, USVI, were tagged and photographed at regular intervals. Recovery of pigmentation had commenced by December 1993, two months after bleaching was first observed. Partial mortality of some colonies was first visible at the next sampling period two months later. Six months after bleaching commenced only 50% of colonies had fully recovered and 11 months after the bleaching event all colonies had normal pigmentation and no entire colonies had died. This study suggests that long term, in situ, high resolution seawater temperature data sets are important in assessing environmental changes that may alter coral reef communities.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1999-07-01
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