Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Coral bleaching in the southern inshore Great Barrier Reef: a case study from the Keppel Islands

Emma V. Kennedy A B , Alexandra Ordoñez A and Guillermo Diaz-Pulido A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Griffith University, School of Environment and Australian Rivers Institute – Coasts and Estuaries, Nathan Campus, Griffith University, 170 Kessels Road, Nathan, Qld 4111, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: emma.kennedy@griffith.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16317
Submitted: 14 September 2016  Accepted: 14 June 2017   Published online: 17 August 2017

Abstract

Spatially explicit coral bleaching data can be used to improve our understanding of the causes and consequences of coral bleaching and help identify resilient reefs. In 2016, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) experienced the most severe coral bleaching in recorded history, yet, as in previous 1998 and 2002 events, the severity and spatial extent of coral bleaching were variable. Cyclonic activity mitigated warming effects in the southern GBR, meaning corals in this region were predicted to bleach less; as a result, southern reef areas received little attention. Herein we report the effects of the 2016 warming event on southern inshore reefs around the Keppel Islands, an area of high conservation importance, with a history of environmental disturbance. Surveys of 14 reefs revealed paling of coral colonies at every site. A total of 21% of living coral, primarily Pocillopora and branching Acropora, was affected. Findings suggest that southern reefs were affected by warming, although significantly less than in the north. Records of milder bleaching help delineate variability in bleaching severity and extent across the GBR, and add to the historical record of bleaching history in the Keppel Islands, essential to understanding the complexity of exposure and recovery dynamics of the Keppel reefs.

Additional keywords: Acropora, disturbance, mass bleaching, recovery, climate change, ocean warming


References

Ainsworth, T. D., Heron, S. F., Ortiz, J. C., Mumby, P. J., Grech, A., Ogawa, D., Eakin, C. M., and Leggat, W. (2016). Climate change disables coral bleaching protection on the Great Barrier Reef. Science 352, 338–342.
Climate change disables coral bleaching protection on the Great Barrier Reef.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BC28Xlsl2isLY%3D&md5=c21745788c278340cc8d5e099832b134CAS |

Australian Institute of Marine Science (2016). AIMS long term monitoring Square Rocks. Available at http://data.aims.gov.au/aimsrtds/yearlytrends.xhtml [Verified 1 May 2016].

Bainbridge, S. J. (2017). Temperature and light patterns at four reefs along the Great Barrier Reef during the 2015–2016 austral summer: understanding patterns of observed coral bleaching. Journal of Operational Oceanography 10, 16–29.
Temperature and light patterns at four reefs along the Great Barrier Reef during the 2015–2016 austral summer: understanding patterns of observed coral bleaching.CrossRef |

Berkelmans, R., De’ath, G., Kininmonth, S., and Skirving, W. J. (2004). A comparison of the 1998 and 2002 coral bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef: spatial correlation, patterns, and predictions. Coral Reefs 23, 74–83.
A comparison of the 1998 and 2002 coral bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef: spatial correlation, patterns, and predictions.CrossRef |

Diaz-Pulido, G., McCook, L. J., Dove, S., Berkelmans, R., Roff, G., Kline, D. I., Weeks, S., Evans, R. D., Williamson, D. H., and Hoegh-Guldberg, O. (2009). Doom and boom on a resilient reef: climate change, algal overgrowth and coral recovery. PLoS One 4, e5239.
Doom and boom on a resilient reef: climate change, algal overgrowth and coral recovery.CrossRef |

Eakin, C. M., Liu, G., Gomez, A. M., De La Cour, J. L., Heron, S. F., Skirving, W. J., Geiger, E. F., Tirak, K. V., and Strong, A. E. (2016). Global coral bleaching 2014–2017: status and an appeal for observations. Reef Encounter 43 31, 20–26.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (2007) ‘Biophysical Assessment of the Reefs of Keppel Bay: a Baseline Study, April 2007.’ (Climate Change Group, Australian Government: Townsville, Qld, Australia.)

Hughes, T. P., Kerry, J. T., Álvarez-Noriega, M., Álvarez-Romero, J. G., Anderson, K. D., Baird, A. H., Babcock, R. C., Beger, M., Bellwood, D. R., Berkelmans, R., Bridge, T. C., Butler, I., Byrne, M., Cantin, N. E., Comeau, S., Connolly, S. R., Cumming, G. S., Dalton, S. J., Diaz-Pulido, G., Eakin, C. M., Figueira, W. F., Gilmour, J. P., Harrison, H. B., Heron, S. F., Hoey, A. S., Hobbs, J. P. A., Hoogenboom, M. O., Kennedy, E. V., Kuo, C. Y., Lough, J. M., Lowe, R. J., Liu, G., McCulloch, M. T., Malcolm, H. A., McWilliam, M. J., Pandolfi, J. M., Pears, R. J., Pratchett, M. S., Schoepf, V., Simpson, T., Skirving, W. J., Sommer, B., Torda, G., Wachenfeld, D. R., Willis, B. L., and Wilson, S. K. (2017). Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals. Nature 543, 373–377.
Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BC2sXlslens78%3D&md5=8fa4b3338567b2ed9a3ce104ceb36ea6CAS |

Jones, A. M., and Berkelmans, R. (2014). Flood impacts in Keppel Bay, southern Great Barrier Reef in the aftermath of cyclonic rainfall. PLoS One 9, e84739.
Flood impacts in Keppel Bay, southern Great Barrier Reef in the aftermath of cyclonic rainfall.CrossRef |

Jones, A. M., Berkelmans, R., van Oppen, M. J. H., Mieog, J. C., and Sinclair, W. (2008). A community change in the algal endosymbionts of a scleractinian coral following a natural bleaching event: field evidence of acclimatization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 275, 1359–1365.
| 1:STN:280:DC%2BD1c3ptFChsg%3D%3D&md5=e573d7815a5c11246a579e701d521d0aCAS |

Jones, A. M., Berkelmans, R., and Houston, W. (2011). Species richness and community structure on a high latitude reef: implications for conservation and management. Diversity 3, 329–355.
Species richness and community structure on a high latitude reef: implications for conservation and management.CrossRef |

Maynard, J. A., Marshall, P. A., Johnson, J. E., and Harman, S. (2010). Building resilience into practical conservation: identifying local management responses to global climate change in the southern Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 29, 381–391.
Building resilience into practical conservation: identifying local management responses to global climate change in the southern Great Barrier Reef.CrossRef |

Mumby, P. J. (2017). Embracing a world of subtlety and nuance on coral reefs. Coral Reefs 36, 1003–1011.
Embracing a world of subtlety and nuance on coral reefs.CrossRef |

van Oppen, M. J. H., Lukoschek, V., Berkelmans, R., Peplow, L. M., and Jones, A. M. (2015). A population genetic assessment of coral recovery on highly disturbed reefs of the Keppel Island archipelago in the southern Great Barrier Reef. PeerJ 3, e1092.
A population genetic assessment of coral recovery on highly disturbed reefs of the Keppel Island archipelago in the southern Great Barrier Reef.CrossRef |

Van Woesik, R., De Vantier, L. M., and Glazebrook, J. S. (1995). Effects of cyclone ‘Joy’ on nearshore coral communities of the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Ecology Progress Series 128, 261–270.
Effects of cyclone ‘Joy’ on nearshore coral communities of the Great Barrier Reef.CrossRef |

Wenger, A. S., Williamson, D. H., da Silva, E. T., Ceccarelli, D. M., Browne, N. K., Petus, C., and Devlin, M. J. (2016). Effects of reduced water quality on coral reefs in and out of no-take marine reserves. Conservation Biology 30, 142–153.
Effects of reduced water quality on coral reefs in and out of no-take marine reserves.CrossRef |

Williamson, D. H., Ceccarelli, D. M., Evans, R. D., Jones, G. P., and Russ, G. R. (2014). Habitat dynamics, marine reserve status, and the decline and recovery of coral reef fish communities. Ecology and Evolution 4, 337–354.
Habitat dynamics, marine reserve status, and the decline and recovery of coral reef fish communities.CrossRef |

Williamson, D. H., Ceccarelli, D. M., Rossetti, G., Russ, G. R., and Jones, G. P. (2016) Assessing the cumulative impacts of climatic disturbances on coral reefs in the Keppel Islands, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Report to the National Environmental Science Programme, Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited, Cairns, Qld, Australia.



Export Citation

View Altmetrics