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Free Content Coral bleaching in Philippine reefs: Coincident evidences with mesoscale thermal anomalies

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Massive bleaching was observed in various reefs throughout the Philippines (5–21°N, 116–128°E), beginning early June until late November 1998. Satellite-derived SST data from NOAA/NESDIS was used to examine thermal anomalies ('hotspots') observed in the country during this same period. Anecdotal reports from the Coral Reef Information Network of the Philippines (PhilReefs) partners revealed the extent of bleaching in other parts of the country. The observations coincided with the occurrence of a hotspot over the region. Coral community studies detected significant decrease in live coral cover (up to 46%) and increase in dead coral cover (up to 49%). The results support the hypothesis that elevated sea temperatures was the major cause of the bleaching event. Some patterns of susceptibility within and across reefs, possibly due to influences of factors such as wave energy, tidal fluctuations and reef morphology, were also observed. The extent and scale of the 1998 bleaching events in the Philippines could not be fully attributed to small-scale anthropogenic disturbances directly affecting reefs since severe bleaching was also observed in offshore reefs. Its coincidence with the El Niño-related temperature anomalies suggests that the interaction between human-induced and natural factors behind bleaching remains to be investigated further. This interaction is critical for reef recovery, and the discrimination between both impacts can be useful for policy and decision-making processes in management.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2001

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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