11 June 2010

Coral bleaching in the region

Today, The Star featured a report of extensive coral bleaching at Tioman on 5-7 Jun.
Photo from The Star 10 Jun.

“The cabbage corals, brain corals and staghorn corals have turned white,” said Kids Scuba director and scuba educator Syed Abdul Rahman Syed Hassan.

He said the underwater temperature had also changed. “In my numerous dives here previously, the temperature was between 25°C and 27°C. However, in my two days of underwater discovery, the temperature was at 32°C,” he said.

The Straits Times also featured the photo with a brief story.

Singapore bloggers also reported on bleaching in Tioman: Kok Sheng reported minor bleaching during his trip in 'end May', while Samson reported more extensive bleaching on 29-30 May.

Bleaching has also been reported in other areas in our region.

Massive coral bleaching was reported in the Andaman Sea and believed to be the worst case in Thai waters for 20 years. Coral bleaching started in April. As of May, 5% of the affected coral reefs had already died. Bleaching affected reefs in the Andaman Sea off Phangnga, Krabi and Phuket, including popular diving sites such as the Similan, Phi Phi and Surin islands.
Photo from the The Bangkok Post 8 May 10;

Another report in May, said bleaching affected 90% of Phuket's and Thailand's coral reefs. Reefs in both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand had begun the bleaching process in the first week of April, as sea temperatures remained unusually high. No area around Phuket had escaped bleaching.

Another report in 9 Jun said temperatures had risen as high as 31C, resulting in bleaching at reefs in the Andaman Sea off Phangnga, Krabi and Phuket, including popular diving sites such as the Similan, Phi Phi and Surin islands. Bleaching affected between 50% and 90% of coral reefs in marine national parks such as Had Chao Mai and Mu Koh Lanta in Trang province and Petra and Tarutao in Satun. 40% of the coral reef in the affected area has already died. If the bleaching was not too severe, the coral would take at least four months to recover, but in serious cases, it might take up to five years. The coral species hardest hit were staghorn, mountain, mushroom, boomerang, ring, fine spined and cauliflower corals. But coral bleaching in the Andaman Sea is expected to ease with the arrival of the rainy season.

In Brunei it was reported on 9 Jun that a "small" amount of coral bleaching was observed and likely due to high water temperatures. But bleaching is not considered as big an issue in Brunei as yet.

In Australia on 5 Jun it was reported that coral bleaching severely affected significant amounts of coral in the Torres Strait due to a combination of warmer than normal sea temperatures and low tides levels. The most-sensitive species, such as the soft corals and staghorn, were expected to die within the next three to four weeks.
Photos courtesy of Andrew Baird on Torres News 5 Jun.

Recovery to similar level of cover in these areas, in the absence or further disturbance, is likely to take between five to 10 years. The earliest evidence of bleaching was on 14 Mar. It was reported to be the worst coral bleaching Torres Strait islanders have seen in about 40 years.
Photo from the Cairns Post, 12 May;

I've added a new tag on wildsingapore news for media reports on reef bleaching events at home and around the world.

What is coral bleaching? and more about bleaching events in Singapore on the brand new Bleach Watch Singapore blog and associated resources.

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