Temperatures Are Off The Charts: World Is Experiencing Its Fourth Global Coral Bleaching Event

News released today by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) confirmswhat WCS scientists have been observing in the field for months: The world is experiencing its fourth global coral bleaching event, the second in the last 10 years.
Temperatures Are Off The Charts: News released today by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) [Newswise]
Temperatures Are Off The Charts: News released today by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) [Newswise]

Temperatures Are Off The Charts: News released today by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) confirmswhat WCS scientists have been observing in the field for months: The world is experiencing its fourth global coral bleaching event, the second in the last 10 years.

Read the NOAA/ICRI news release here.

Bleaching-level heat stress, caused by prolonged increases in superheated ocean temperatures, is predicted to be extensive across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans over the next 12 months and has already been recorded in 54 countries. This year’s event has the potential to be the largest coral bleaching event on record for the planet, jeopardizing coral reef ecosystems with an estimated economic value of $2.7 trillion annually that nearly 1 billion people rely on for livelihoods, food security and coastal protection. 

This official announcement makes WCS’s work #ForCoral more urgent than ever: To find and protect the world’s most climate-resilient coral reefs in partnership with coastal communities, national governments, and global collaborations of scientists. Climate-resilient coral reefs are examples of areas of high ecological integrity that are prioritized by WCS’s global conservation actions around the world. 

“Temperatures are off the charts,” says Dr Emily Darling, Director of Coral Reefs at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). “While many corals are suffering from extreme heat stress and bleaching, some locations and species show different types of natural resilience. Finding and conserving these priority coral reefs are critical to any global strategy to safeguard the planet’s oceans and blue economies.”

Last year, new science led by WCS shows us that there are three types of climate-resilient coral reefs that can defy the odds and resist bleaching, even during mass bleaching events:

Avoidance reefs are located in rare underwater ‘cool spots’ and have been able to mostly avoid the impacts of warm water events.

Resistance reefs have evolved adaptations that allow their corals to take warm water events in stride, defying bleaching and other impacts.

Recovery reefs may bleach during warm water events or be damaged by storms, but they are able to rapidly recover - growing back in record time.

Last month, WCS trained more than 30 scientists from across the Coral Triangle to record coral bleaching with underwater surveys and help identify these three types of climate resilient reefs.

By championing the use of shared methods and data platforms, such as the WCS-led global platform MERMAID (https://datamermaid.org/), the latest evidence can help identify the locations of climate resilient coral reefs that must be cornerstones in national biodiversity action plans.  

“The announcement of the 4th global bleaching event is an urgent call to do two things: reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work together to prioritize resilient coral reefs for conservation,” says Dr Darling. Newswise/SP

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