Soaring temps lead to mass coral killing in Indonesia: Study

Washington, Aug 17 (ANI): A new research has shown that a dramatic rise in the surface temperature in Indonesian waters has resulted in a large-scale bleaching event that has devastated coral populations.

WCS's Indonesia Program "Rapid Response Unit" of marine biologists was dispatched to investigate coral bleaching reported in May in Aceh-a province of Indonesia-located on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra.

The initial survey carried out by the team revealed that over 60 percent of corals were bleached.

"Bleaching"- a whitening of corals that occurs when algae living within coral tissues are expelled - is an indication of stress caused by environmental triggers such as sea surface temperature fluctuations. Depending on many factors, bleached coral may recover over time or die.

Subsequent monitoring conducted by marine ecologists from WCS, James Cook University (Australia), and Syiah Kuala University (Indonesia) were completed in early August and revealed one of the most rapid and severe coral mortality events ever recorded.

The scientists found that 80 percent of some species have died since the initial assessment and more colonies are expected to die within the next few months.

The event is the result of a rise in sea surface temperatures in the Andaman Sea - an area that includes the coasts of Myanmar, Thailand, the Andaman and Nicobar Island, and northwestern Indonesia.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Hotspots website, temperatures in the region peaked in late May of 2010, when the temperature reached 34 degrees Celsius-4 degrees Celsius higher than long term averages for the area.

"It's a disappointing development particularly in light of the fact that these same corals proved resilient to other disruptions to this ecosystem, including the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004," said Stuart Campbell of WCS.

Of particular concern is the scale of the sea surface temperature anomaly which the NOAA website indicates has affected the entire Andaman Sea and beyond. Similar mass bleaching events in 2010 have now been recorded in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and many parts of Indonesia.

"If a similar degree of mortality is apparent at other sites in the Andaman Sea this will be the worst bleaching event ever recorded in the region," according to Andrew Baird of James Cook University.

"The destruction of these upstream reefs means recovery is likely to take much longer than before," he added. (ANI)

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