Nav: Home

New coral bleaching database to help predict fate of global reefs

May 01, 2017

A UBC-led research team has developed a new global coral bleaching database that could help scientists predict future bleaching events.

Until now, knowledge of the geographic extent of mass coral bleaching has been incomplete.

"We know that mass coral bleaching is happening all over the world, but the majority of events are in places in the developing world where the capacity for monitoring them is limited," said Simon Donner, associate professor in the department of geography and the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at UBC. "But no report doesn't mean bleaching didn't happen. It could be that the monitoring resources are not available or the reefs are too remote to visit."

To build the database, the researchers scoured academic journals, government documents and other sources for reports of coral bleaching missing from an existing voluntary database commonly used by scientists. Then, they personally contacted local experts in places where they suspected coral bleaching had occurred.

So far, their database contains 79 per cent more reports than the voluntary database. The researchers also found two-thirds of the new reports show moderate or severe bleaching. Using the data, Donner and his team also created global maps showing areas where coral bleaching likely occurred between 1985 and 2010, despite the lack of previous reports.

The database will help scientists more accurately assess changes in the frequency of mass coral bleaching. It will also help predict future bleaching from ocean temperatures and allow scientists to test whether coral reefs are adjusting to rising ocean temperatures.

"If oceans continue warming at the current rate for the rest of the century, it's likely that we won't have many corals left," said Donner. "About a quarter of the ocean's biodiversity exists on coral reefs. People depend on them for food, income and protection from rising seas."

A loss of the world's coral reefs from climate change would be disastrous for people in the tropics and Donner encourages everyone to contribute to the open-source database.

"You don't even have to be a scientist," he said. "To anyone who is a diver, your citizen-scientist engagement can be valuable for us trying to understand what's happening to coral reefs around the planet."

The study, published this month in the journal PLOS ONE, was co-authored by Gregory J.M. Rickbeil and Scott F. Heron.
-end-


University of British Columbia

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".