Mass coral bleaching has occurred on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and Torres Strait in 2016 and 2017 as part of a continuous global bleaching event that started in late 2014 (NOAA). The combined effect has meant that the majority of the reef has been severely affected.
A new project using IMOS data is looking to understand how local or reef scale, regional and global oceanographic and meteorological processes influence the severity and spatial variability of thermally driven coral bleaching. By doing this a better appreciation of which parts of the reef are more tolerant (or fortunate) and therefore more likely to retain their health into the future can be used to better manage the GBR.
The three-year project is funded under the National Environmental Science Programme (NESP) Tropical Water Quality Hub and is being undertaken by researchers from Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and CSIRO in partnership with the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The project is structured in three main components:
1 Summary of oceanographic conditions during the 2015-17 bleaching years
All available relevant environmental observations of the recent bleaching events will be gathered to be more easily discoverable to researchers and managers via a gateway/summary webpage. These include hundreds of temperature loggers deployed along the GBR by AIMS, weather stations and the use of IMOS remote sensing, moorings and glider deployments. This publicly available and quality-controlled data set will allow the most comprehensive understanding yet of how individual coral reefs faired.
2 Hydrodynamics of bleaching and improved understanding The data will be used to improve the current understanding of the relationship between heat stress and bleaching response from repeated in situ observations of coral health and also assess how well the eReefs models perform and analyse the hydrodynamic reasons behind the variations of response. 3D versions of remotely sensed bleaching products by NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch and BoM ReefTemp will be produced.
3 Improved seasonal predictions of marine heatwaves in the GBR
A seasonal prediction capability for marine heatwaves will be developed in partnership with BoM. This is being developed as a tailored research product to assist GBR management of developing marine heat waves and will utilise BoM’s next generation seasonal prediction model ACCESS-S.
This news item was written by Craig Steinberg (AIMS)