Study: some coral reefs are adapting to 'climate change' just fine

WCS coral expert finds that some reefs were less sensitive to warming water over time

NEW YORK (May 2, 2017) – A new WCS study reveals evidence that some corals are adapting to warming ocean waters – potentially good news in the face of recent reports of global coral die offs due to extreme warm temperatures in 2016. The study appears in the latest issue of Marine Ecology Progress Series.

The study looked at responses to extreme temperature exposures in the same reefs over time, and found less coral bleaching in 11 of the 21 coral species studied. WCS Senior Conservation Zoologist Tim McClanahan, who has been studying coral responses to climate change since the extreme temperatures of the1998 El Nino, authored the study.

The study took place in two marine national parks of Kenya. Looking at two similarly severe warming events in 1998 and 2016, McClanahan found that the number of pale and bleached coral colonies declined from 73 to 27 percent, and 96 to 60 percent in the two parks with different background temperatures. Most of this change was due to about half of the most common species that did not bleach strongly in 2016. One rare species was, however, more sensitive than in 1998.

Bleaching takes place when stressed corals discharge beneficial algae that supply energy to corals causing them to turn pale or white and often starve. Worldwide, an estimated 60 percent of corals and 90 percent of coral species experienced bleaching due to unusually warm ocean water in 2016.

McClanahan says: “This was a rare chance to study bleaching responses during two separate times with very similar conditions. Adaptation is evident for some of the more important reef building corals but, sadly, many species are not adapting, so this is a good news-bad news story.”

But McClanahan warns: “Evidence for adaptation in the past is not evidence for adaptation in the future. Nevertheless, I suspect this adaptation to hot water started before my 1998 work and could have begun during the 1983 and 1988 El Niños, when coral bleaching was first observed in the region.”

Said Tim McClanahan: “Despite the many caveats and interpretation of these results, this study provides one of the first response-rate estimates for many common corals at the population level. It therefore provides a basis for future studies and improving model predictions and the types of evaluations needed to address the future health of coral reefs.”

Global awareness continues to grow about the immediate threats facing coral reef ecosystems, and a global commitment to address those threats. In February, at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, Indonesia, the ’50 Reefs’ initiative was launched by the Global Change Institute of the University of Queensland and the Ocean Agency. The initiative brings together leading ocean, climate and marine scientists to develop a list of the 50 most critical coral reefs to protect, while leading conservation practitioners are working together to establish the best practices to protect these reefs.


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Ian Magness
May 2, 2017 10:14 am

Attributing this to “adaptation” just looks garbage to me, especially given the huge difference in percentage of supposed surviving corals. What other factors were evaluated to explain the differences? What about sea levels, for instance?

Reply to  Ian Magness
May 2, 2017 10:20 am

This is just an excuse for the abundance of damage caused by rising temperatures. It is true that nature is adaptable. However, when faced with enormous odds stacked against it the adaptation usually loses pace resulting in
extinction, etc.
~Sarah Sobieski

Reply to  Sarah Sobieski
May 2, 2017 2:16 pm

Sarah- Your emotional response to an entirely natural phenomenon is utterly wasted. Corals have been around for millions of years and seen ocean levels that were much, much higher and much, much lower. During those millions of years they have likewise seen water temperatures much, much warmer and much, much colder. that’s why evolution made their reproduction mobile. the seas are full of spores just looking for a spot to land. They just don’t know if the spot will be good for a long time or just a good time.
Like people who settle at the foot of Mt. Etna because the land is fertile-they think short term and that has worked for them for millions of years.

Reply to  Sarah Sobieski
May 2, 2017 2:24 pm

If the damage is as abundant as you have been trained to believe, then you shouldn’t have any trouble listing some and demonstrating conclusively that it was CO2 that done it.

Reply to  Sarah Sobieski
May 2, 2017 3:39 pm

Sarah – For about 100,000 years, a period ended about 12,000 years ago, coral was really stressed by cold ocean temperatures and sea level over 400 feet lower than today. During that period, the Great Barrier Reef did not exist in its present location, which was of course, over 400 feet above the sea level. Ignorance of past climate change – millions of events – and past adaptations by life forms, is abundantly in evidence in your and in the vast army of CAGW alarmists’ comments on the current natural rebound from one of the coldest periods of the past 10,000 years, the Little Ice Age (1350-1850AD). Even with the modest recent warming, we are still in the coldest 10% of the past 10,000 years. Even many fools realize that Earth’s life forms overall do much better in a warmer vs. colder environment. Ask a Canadian about how it will feel during the coming glacial period (ice age) when, for another 100,000 years, all of Canada will be under mile-thick ice.

Tom Gelsthorpe
Reply to  Ian Magness
May 2, 2017 11:41 am

Coral reefs adapt to cycles of warming and cooling, and to rising sea levels, and have for millions of years. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the largest structure built by living creatures. It dwarfs the puny works of man like the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, and our modern cities, not only in size but in duration. It has outlived dozens of glacial & warming cycles.
Atolls are interesting coral formations most abundant in the Pacific Ocean, but found in other tropical oceans as well. They are ring-shaped coral structures that grow around small islands when the island subsides, the sea level rises, or both. Eniwetok in the Pacific is one of the largest atolls, more than ten miles across, and began growing in the Cretaceous era when dinosaurs still walked the earth. Bikini, an atoll nearby, was used for atomic testing in the 1940s and 50s, and supplied perhaps the most famous photograph of an atomic blast. The eponymous skimpy bathing suit popularized about that time, was named for the blast/island because of its allegedly explosive effect on male eyeballs.
This post does not suggest we should be cavalier about the fate of corals, or that we shouldn’t bother monitoring them. Quite the contrary. But we should not misrepresent coral reefs’ adaptability or durability in order to manipulate public opinion. We should be as accurate as possible.

May 2, 2017 10:19 am

“Nevertheless, I suspect this adaptation to hot water started before my 1998 work and could have begun during the 1983 and 1988 El Niños”
I never knew that ’83 had the first El Niño?

Reply to  Paul
May 2, 2017 10:35 am

That’s the first El Niño that they noticed. Bleaching events were common in the early 20th century warming, uncommon during the mid-20th century cooling period and then common again since 1980…

Insufficient sea temperature data exist from the Great Barrier Reef to indicate changes in the long-term means over recent times. However, an analysis of air temperature records from Townsville shows that mean January February air temperatures above 29°C occurred 6 times between 1980 and 1995, 5 of which coincided with bleaching events at nearby Magnetic Island. Prior to 1980 however, these conditions had occurred only 4 times in the 53 years since 1927, all occurring in the 1930s (Jones 1995; Jones et al. in press).
They routinely ignore everything prior to the early 1980’s and declare whatever is happening now to be unprecedented.

Rhoda R
Reply to  David Middleton
May 2, 2017 11:18 am

Something that has bothered me about the whole “CO2 levels haven’t been this high in millions of years” nonsense: If the Holocene Optimum and the Minoan warm period and the Roman warm period were warmer than today, doesn’t if follow that the oceans were warmer as well and thus throwing out more CO2 than now?

Reply to  Rhoda R
May 2, 2017 11:47 am

Antarctic ice cores generally lack the resolution to detect century-scale CO2 shifts.

Reply to  David Middleton
May 2, 2017 2:24 pm

Just because air temps were a little higher then doesn’t mean ocean temps were as well. There is no proof or real indication that ocean temps today are any warmer than previously this century. Beware of the Warmist B.S. machine that says that ocean waters are .1 C warmer or that ph has declined by .01. These “readings” are false in statistical terms as the base measurements are completely inadequate to deliver that accurate a resolution. They are more or less like Michael Mann’s tree rings- a deliberate fabrication via slight of hand statistical analysis that is hopelessly corrupt. It is pretend science by political activists.

Reply to  john harmsworth
May 2, 2017 2:30 pm

At least with water temperatures, there are some actual measurements from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
There are no pH measurements from that period and very few now. Assertions of a 0.1 drop in oceanic pH over the past 250 years are entirely based on the rise in CO2.
They use the “cause” to calculate an “effect” and then claim that there is a cause and effect relationship.
Atmospheric CO2 does factor into the pH of surface seawater… But so do a lot of other things.

May 2, 2017 10:29 am

as most plant and animal life, it’s main purpose is to continue life, propagate.

May 2, 2017 10:36 am

Corals, polar bears and nearly every other species in the world today survived wrenching climate change at the end of the last glaciation. Climate change isn’t the problem, things like pollution and habitat loss are. CAGW has distracted us from problems that exist and might otherwise be solved.

Reply to  commieBob
May 2, 2017 4:08 pm

I doubt either habitat loss or pollution matter much. The planet is currently adding 2 billion tons of biomass per year, increasing habitat for biodiversity. Tens of millions of acres of marginal farmland have been returned to the wild since the fall of the USSR. According to the EPA, six real pollutants they track have declined 71% since 1970 (excluding CO2, which is not a pollutant). I suspect many European nations and Japan have reduced emissions about as much as we have since the ’70s. As the developed world gets richer, they will deal with rising pollution, too.comment image
The world is 71% ocean and the other 29% is where humans can potentially live. (Except that much of the non-oceanic surface area is uninhabitable – polar caps, swamps, forests, deserts, mountains, etc.) The surface area of the U.S. is less than 2% of the planet’s surface area. And in the U.S. we have covered maybe 2%-3% of U.S. surface area with infrastructure. That’s where we live, work, play and drive our cars. That amounts to about 0.04%-0.06% of Earth’s surface area. On that 0.04%-0.06% of Earth’s surface area the U.S. produces about 25% of global GDP.
We think everything revolves around us, but I suspect we’re barely more than a surface nuisance to Gaia.

May 2, 2017 10:41 am

Bikini Atoll Corals Recovering from Atomic Blast – Live Science › Planet Earth
15 Apr 2008 – Fifty years after the atomic blast that devastated the Bikini Atoll, vast expanses of corals in the area seem to be flourishing once again

Burks Smith
Reply to  richard
May 2, 2017 11:53 am

I doubt it took 50 years. An atoll gets a constant stream of coral spores, etc.

May 2, 2017 10:41 am

Well there isn’t much to adapt to, so…
And how about the corals that were bleached, how many were being exposed during low tide?

Reply to  RWturner
May 2, 2017 4:16 pm

Exactly. In the scheme of things, any climate change which is currently occurring (or which has occurred in the last 50 years) is miniscule and barely measurable.

May 2, 2017 10:55 am

Corals have survived and adapted for 500 million Years through 5 or 6 mass extinction events and numerous Natural Ice Age and Global Warming events. Corals are not in danger of extinction except by deliberate Human poisoning .

May 2, 2017 11:40 am

A new WCS study reveals evidence that some corals are adapting to warming ocean waters – potentially good news in the face of recent reports of global coral die offs due to extreme warm temperatures in 2016. The study appears in the latest issue of Marine Ecology Progress Series.

This “study” can be filed under, “No Schist Sherlock”…
Coral reefs can handle “highly acidic ocean waters”…

Pacific Mystery: Coral Reefs Are Thriving, But How?
Jun 5, 2015
A College of Geosciences researcher and her colleagues have found healthy coral reefs in highly acidic ocean waters. “The reefs appear to be thriving, and we want to understand why,” says Kathryn Shamberger, assistant professor of oceanography.
The team examined eight coral reefs in the Palauan archipelago and found high levels of acidification within the lagoons and inlets of the Palau Rock Islands. But despite the high levels, the Rock Island coral reefs appear to be extremely healthy.
“Based on lab experiments and other studies, this is the opposite of what we expected,” says Barkley, the lead author.
The team says that the acidification process in Palau is a natural one, due to a combination of biological activity and the slow flushing of water through the Rock Island lagoons that allows acidification levels to build up over time.

Sediment laden waters…

Coral reef thriving in sediment-laden waters
Rapid rates of coral reef growth have been identified in sediment-laden marine environments, conditions previously believed to be detrimental to reef growth.
A new study has established that Middle Reef – part of Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef – has grown more rapidly than many other reefs in areas with lower levels of sediment stress.

Rising seas (AKA deeper water)…

Great Barrier Reef found to have thriving deep water coral
Updated 2:23 AM ET, Fri October 26, 2012
A recent survey of the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef has found coral flourishing in deep waters, a stark contrast to the shallower reefs that have seen a drastic decline over the last few decades.
The healthy coral populations were discovered to be below 30 meters — beyond the usual reach of most scuba divers — and even found at depths of 80 meters, according to the Catlin Seaview Survey.

Glacial cycles…

Rottnest’s tropical corals found to thrive
July 9, 2015 by Kerry Faulkner
Researchers are surprised at thriving coral growth at Rottnest Island, predicting its smaller coral communities could grow into a reef similar to the one that existed there in the Last Interglacial, approximately 130,000 years ago.


Hong Kong coral reef thrives despite pollution
Amid major developments, territory’s scientists make unexpectedly pleasant underwater discovery.
08 Oct 2015
Marine life is thriving despite major developments at Hong Kong’s busy harbour.
Like any other marine environment around the world, this region is feeling the impacts of climate change and development.
Nevertheless, the stronger types of coral species are holding on despite the unrelenting conditions and scientists are now trying to establish how they survive.

Ocean zoning…

Scientific Assessment Of Curaçao’s Coastal Waters Show Healthy And Thriving Coral And Fish Populations
WILLEMSTAD – A recent two-week long scientific assessment surveyed over 150 dive sites of Curaçao’s shallow water reef sites and found signs of healthy coral and fish populations around the island, particularly in Oostpunt. The scientific assessment was a critical step in Blue Halo Curaçao and its comprehensive, science-based approach to ocean zoning.

A lack of data…

For marine biologists, the destruction of the reefs has proven to be as frustrating as it is heartbreaking. Because reef habitats are so complex, and because worldwide reef monitoring and mapping efforts only began a little over a decade ago, scientists simply do not have enough information to keep tabs on the destruction of the reefs, let alone come up with an effective solution. At the rate the reefs are disappearing, they may be beyond repair by the time a comprehensive plan to save reefs can be put into place…

Harsh intertidal zones…

A Diverse Assemblage of Reef Corals Thriving in a Dynamic Intertidal Reef Setting (Bonaparte Archipelago, Kimberley, Australia)
The susceptibility of reef-building corals to climatic anomalies is well documented and a cause of great concern for the future of coral reefs. Reef corals are normally considered to tolerate only a narrow range of climatic conditions with only a small number of species considered heat-tolerant. Occasionally however, corals can be seen thriving in unusually harsh reef settings and these are cause for some optimism about the future of coral reefs. Here we document for the first time a diverse assemblage of 225 species of hard corals occurring in the intertidal zone of the Bonaparte Archipelago, north western Australia.

Bad news about other ocean habitats…

Crown Jewel of Cuba’s Coral Reefs
Jardines de la Reina, a vibrant marine preserve, is thriving even as other ocean habitats decline.

JULY 13, 2015
The sharks are a tourist attraction — at two of the many diving spots in the Gardens, they are fed to ensure larger numbers — but to scientists like Dr. Pina and Dr. Kritzer, their very presence here is an indicator of the coral reef’s robustness.
Research has linked the health of reefs to habitation by large fish, and the absence of sharks and other top predators is often a sign of a reef in decline.
The resilience of this coral reef seems beyond question. The waters inside the preserve hold 10 times as many sharks as outside, Dr. Pina said, and goliath grouper, rare in many places, are often seen here.


Glass sponge reefs thought to be extinct are discovered to be thriving in ocean depths
Mummies, they’re called, these strange shapes that form one of the largest structures ever to exist on Earth. Stretching some 2900 kilometers from Spain to Romania, the long, sinuous curve of millions of mummies—once-living, vase-shaped animals—is a fossil reef. In its heyday in the Jurassic, the reef dwarfed today’s Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s northeastern coast. Now it is visible only in rock outcrops dotted across a vast area of central and southern Spain, southwestern Germany, central Poland, southeastern France, Switzerland, and eastern Romania near the Black Sea. The ancient reef was made up not of corals but of deep-sea sponges called hexactinellids.
Hexactinellids, or glass sponges, use silica dissolved in seawater to manufacture a skeleton of four- or six-pointed siliceous spicules. Individual glass sponges, such as the beautiful Venus’s flower-basket sponge (Euplectella aspergillum), are still found in the deep sea but are a different genus and species from the Jurassic reef-builders. Reef-building glass sponges, known only from fossilized remains, are thought to have gone extinct 100 million years ago, driven out by competition from newly arrived diatoms.
The surprise find
The darkness beneath British Columbia’s Strait of Georgia, Hecate Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound concealed the next chapter in an eons-old tale. For decades, hints of something alive—something no one had seen before—washed up on the shores of Galiano Island in the Strait of Georgia. Walking along a beach on the island, long-time resident Elizabeth McClelland found pieces of an unidentified object in the tide line. “Every so often, I’d come across bits of flotsam that were very delicate but very sharp,” says McClelland. “My granddaughter once found a fairly large piece of these unknown gifts from the sea.”
Then came an odd clue at the bottom of Hecate Strait. During a 1984 seafloor mapping expedition, scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada, using sonar imaging, saw mounds over huge areas of the seafloor—areas that should have been completely flat. Similar acoustic anomalies, as geological survey scientists Kim Conway and Vaughn Barrie referred to them, were observed again in 1986 during a survey of Queen Charlotte Sound.
Reef-building glass sponges gave up their secret to Conway and Vaughn in 1987: underwater photography in Hecate Strait captured the sponges on film. Far from extinct, the sponges were thriving in the depths off British Columbia.
BioScience (2008) 58 (4): 288-294. doi: 10.1641/B580403

An absence of scuba divers…

Corals in Musandam are thriving, report finds
MUSANDAM // A survey of the peninsula by an expedition of marine scientists and volunteer divers has found that its coral reefs are thriving.
For Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, an expedition member and one of the authors of the report, said when it came to the health of corals, the sites were in better condition than many locations famous for being scuba-diving haunts.
“It is an outstanding location,” said Dr Solandt, senior biodiversity policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society. “The coral health is excellent.”
The healthy Musandam reefs could well be a source of population recovery for reefs in the Arabian Gulf, where physical and man-made factors combine to create an environment that is more challenging for corals.
Many of the sites hosted very large colonies of the genus Porites. Some of the colonies, said Dr Solandt, were “the size of small houses”, indicating they could well be more than 400 years old.
This also most likely meant that no significant damaging events had occurred within this timeframe, said the report.

I’ve noticed that scuba divers tend to whine more than other groups about Gorebal Warming and Ocean Neutralization killing coral reefs. I have also noticed variations of this in several articles…

[W]hen it came to the health of corals, the sites were in better condition than many locations famous for being scuba-diving haunts…

Maybe coral reefs don’t like scuba divers???
More sea level rise and deeper waters…

Deep-Water Coral Reefs Thriving Off Puerto Rico
Jan 14, 2011
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – As the ocean floor plunges off southwestern Puerto Rico, it reveals coral reefs dotted with bright-blue sea squirts and a multitude of other organisms whose existence has given hope to scientists who strive to save the island’s threatened ecosystems.
The organisms are an integral part of a group of reefs discovered to be thriving near an area where most shallow coral reefs and the fish that depend on them are in poor health overall.
The reefs – at a depth of up to 500 feet (152 meters) in an area 12 miles (19 kilometers) across – were recently discovered as part of a federally funded mission to conduct research on deep-water corals, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“We stumbled across this area,” Richard Appeldoorn, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez who was involved in the mission, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Divers enrolled in a one-year training course to depths of up to 100 feet (31 meters) noticed the thriving reefs and large predators lurking nearby, said Appeldoorn, who oversees the university’s fisheries, biology and coral reef studies program.


A Bright Spot for Coral Reefs
Air Date: Week of January 11, 2013
[C]orals in American Samoa are actually thriving despite the heat. At least that’s what researchers at Stanford University reported recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Steve Palumbi is a professor of Marine Science at Stanford University and a lead author on the research. He explained how corals bleach and otherwise react to the stresses of heat.

More heat…

Diversity of Corals, Algae in Warm Indian Ocean Suggests Resilience to Future Global Warming
12 February 2010
Penn State researchers and their international collaborators have discovered a diversity of corals harboring unusual species of symbiotic algae in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea in the northeastern Indian Ocean. “The existence of so many novel coral symbioses thriving in a place that is too warm for most corals gives us hope that coral reefs and the ecosystems they support may persist — at least in some places — in the face of global warming,” said the team’s leader, Penn State Assistant Professor of Biology Todd LaJeunesse.

Coral reefs can even handle numerous predictions of their imminent demise…

December 19, 2013
Coral reefs, the great survivors
By Viv Forbes
For at least fifty years, agitated academics have been predicting the end of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Now international “experts” are also sprouting coral calamity. But despite the alarms, the reef is still there.
Corals are among the greatest survivors on Earth and have been here for about 500 million years. Many of the types of corals found on reefs today were present in similar forms on reefs 50 million years ago.
Since corals first appeared there have been five mass extinctions when over 50% of all life forms on land and in the seas died.
Corals also survived several deadly ice ages when sea levels fell so low that many coral reefs left their skeletons stranded as limestone hills on dry land. But always some colonisers followed the retreating seas and survived.
Then came the hot climate eras when the great ice sheets melted and sea levels rose dramatically. Some coral reefs drowned, but others just built on top of the old drowned corals forming the beautiful coral atolls we see today. Corals flourish in gently rising seas such as we have today – it gives them room to refresh and grow vertically.
And if the water gets too warm, coral larvae just drift into cooler waters closer to the poles. The Great Barrier Reef would move slowly south.
Corals have outlasted the dinosaurs, the mammoths and the sabre-toothed tiger. Captain Cook’s ship was almost disembowelled by the sturdy corals of the Great Barrier Reef in 1770. If Cook came back today, he would be unable to detect any changes in the Reef.
No matter what the future holds, corals are more likely than humans to survive the next major extinction.
In the event of yet another Ice Age we must hope that reef alarmists have not denied us the things we will need to survive – food, energy, chemicals, shelter, concrete and steel generated by carbon fuels.
Read more:…#ixzz3vEkoWpx5
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Atomic bombs…

Coral flourishing at Bikini Atoll atomic test site
Tue Apr 15, 2008
By Rob Taylor
CANBERRA (Reuters) – Coral is again flourishing in the crater left by the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated by the United States, 54 years after the blast on Bikini Atoll, marine scientists said on Tuesday.
A team of research divers visited Bravo crater, ground zero for the test of a thermonuclear weapon in the remote Marshall Islands on March 1, 1954, and found large numbers of fish and coral growing, although some species appeared locally extinct. “I didn’t know what to expect, some kind of moonscape perhaps. But it was incredible,” Zoe Richards, from Australia’s James Cook University, told Reuters about the team’s trip to the atoll in the south Pacific.
“We saw communities not too far from any coral reef, with plenty of fish, corals and action going on, some really striking individual colonies,” she said.

Chicken Little of the Sea doesn’t even bother them…

Coral Reefs
March 2013, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 305-314
First online: 22 November 2012
Ocean acidification does not affect the physiology of the tropical coral Acropora digitifera during a 5-week experiment
A. Takahashi, H. Kurihara
The increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, which has resulted from the burning of fossil fuels, is being absorbed by the oceans and is causing ocean acidification. Ocean acidification involves the decrease of both the pH and the calcium carbonate saturation state. Ocean acidification is predicted to impact the physiology of marine organisms and reduce the calcification rates of corals. In the present study, we measured the rates of calcification, respiration, photosynthesis, and zooxanthellae density of the tropical coral Acropora digitifera under near-natural summertime temperature and sunlight for a 5-week period. We found that these key physiological parameters were not affected…
Additionally, there was no significant correlation between calcification rate and seawater aragonite saturation (Ωarag). These results suggest that the impacts of ocean acidification on corals physiology may be more complex than have been previously proposed.….338-012-0979-8

Offshore oil & gas drilling…

Spectacular reef awaits divers off coast of Galveston
KHOU Staff,
Jun 11, 2014
GALVESTON, Texas — When you think about Galveston, you probably picture sun and surf, maybe the Pleasure Pier or sometimes seaweed, but you probably don t think about great diving.
The sanctuary actually encompasses three separate areas, underwater salt domes that stand higher than the surrounding ocean floor. Snapper and grouper fishermen who saw the colorful sponges and other marine life under their boats are credited with discovering the ecological wonder in the late 19th century. The area was designated as a national marine sanctuary in 1992 and it s now managed under the direction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
At a time when coral reefs around the world are in decline, Flower Garden Banks is thriving largely because it s so remote it attracts comparatively few divers.

I’m really beginning to think that the only thing coral reefs can’t handle are too many scuba divers.
Coral reefs are amazingly undaunted by “a trend of widespread decline in coral reefs across the Caribbean”…

Scientists explore secret of Little Cayman’s coral reef success
30 December, 2014
By: James Whittaker |
What is so special about Little Cayman’s reefs? That’s the question a new $140,000 scientific study at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute will seek to answer.
Scientists want to determine why reefs around the remote island are thriving and whether there are lessons that can be adapted to help protect and maintain vital coral reef systems around the world.
The new study will look specifically at rare and endangered coral species around Little Cayman and attempt to determine why they are bucking a trend of widespread decline in coral reefs across the Caribbean.
An earlier study by CCMI showed that coral cover had been increasing around Little Cayman over the past five years.

What is so special about Little Cayman’s reefs?
Here’s a SWAG… They are REMOTE.
Coral reefs even handled the much warmer Eemian (Sangamonian) interglacial stage…

Sangamon Interglacial: Paleoclimatology
and Future Climate Implications

Daniel Call
Recent ‘extreme’ weather events, rising carbon dioxide levels and the growing evidence of retreating glaciers have increasingly become the subjects of much debate in the popular press and numerous fields of scientific research. Driving these discussions are questions aimed at discerning what drives the climate on Earth. Several have been noted in previous research: Milankovitch cycles, solar output, continental configurations and the most recent and controversial, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas atmospheric concentrations (Hambrey 2004). In order to understand what we should expect, both from a climate change perspective and from a changing biogeographical perspective during our current interglacial phase, scientists have looked to the last interglacial period in the geologic record, the Sangamon Stage (or the Eemian, as it appears in European literature) approximately 114,000 – 130,000 years ago for answers.
Similarly, the limestones deposited in coral reef complexes near Bermuda, the Florida Keys and part of the Miami Limestone had to have been formed in seas that are anywhere from 6 to 19 meters higher than current sea level with most sea level estimates being placed at 6 – 10 meters higher than today. These values represent data gathered during 2 of the lower sea stands during the Sangamon with the 3rd being much higher than the others based on ?O18 minimums obtained from oxygen isotope data of deep sea cores (USGS).
The implications of such a high sea level suggests that massive changes in a number of the elements that factor into establishing a particular global climate regime had to have occurred. Looking at Milankovitch cycles, the Northern Hemisphere, during the Sangamon, would have received higher insolation rates (solar radiation received on a surface during a unit of time) than today and a large portion of Greenland’s Ice Sheet and significant portions of the West Antarctic Ice sheet would have had to melt to produce the sea level rise necessary for coral reef derived limestone formations to have been generated at the elevations that they are present at today (Koerner).
Carbon dioxide concentrations weren’t as high in the Sangamon as they are today, but they were still much higher than any of the previous or following glacial periods. This combination of high CO2 and increased insolation due to Milankovitch cycle parameters would have altered the climate regimes around the globe. Global temperatures were thought to be 5-7 °C (9-13 °F) higher than the current interglacial period according to North Atlantic oceanic sediment cores with South Pacific oceanic cores showing a rise of only 3-5 °C (5.4-9 °F).
Across the majority of Europe, general scientific consensus was that the Eemian climate was much warmer and wetter than today’s environment. This resulted in the development of vast temperate forests and the rapid expansion of species, most notably Carpinus across the area (Turner 2000). Although the Eemian was consistently much warmer, evidence has been building that a large scale late Eemian arid ‘pulse’ dominated central Europe resulting in the widespread takeover of ecological niches by various grasses and shrubby bushes before returning to a warm, somewhat more moist climate dominated by temperate forests just before the most recent glacial stadial (Sirocko, et al. 2005).
Coupled with the climatic discrepancies are the discrepancies with analyzing how life will respond to the changing environment. As Smith and Buddemeier explained, looking at oceanic chemistry and a number of other factors, a rise in sea level could actually benefit most coral reef complexes if sea level and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise at anticipated rates within the next 100 years. The net effect would cause a drawdown of atmospheric carbon dioxide as more of this greenhouse gas gets incorporated as CaCO3 as various reef complexes grow. Overall, Smith and Buddemeier make a valid point when they explain that the number of factors affecting coral reef health and viability, coupled with the modest changes expected from various climate change simulations indicate that on a global scale, coral reefs are unlikely to be adversely affected by projected climate change. It is only on the local scale that coral reef communities could be at risk.…call3/sang.htm

Fortunately for coral reefs, there were no scuba divers 130,000 years ago.
More deep water and even more surprised scientists…

Science Features – Discoveries of the Deep—The Surprising Undersea World at Pulley Ridge
In the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 250 km west of Cape Sable, Florida, and 70 km west of the Dry Tortugas, are a series of drowned barrier islands known as Pulley Ridge. The ridge was found in 1950, but it wasn’t until recent years that scientists discovered something extraordinary.
The southern portion of the ridge is a thriving coral reef, a pristine habitat teeming with life and color. Here, more than 60 species of fish swim in predominantly clear, warm water. An abundance of algae sprinkles the seascape in vibrant reds and greens. Brilliant blue-purple corals stretch across the sea floor like giant plates. Octocorals, with tiny featherlike tendrils and colors that vary per colony, reach out with sometimes light and delicate and sometimes bright and knobby arms. And in the soft light that filters down from the distant surface, luxuriant fields of the leafy algae Anadyomene menziesii rise from the sea floor like patches of lettuce at dusk.
The reef was discovered in 1999, as scientists and graduate students from the USGS Center for Coastal & Watershed Studies and the University of South Florida (USF) boarded the research vessel Bellows and set sail for the Pulley ridge area, where a bathymetric map of the ocean floor showed a mysterious bump.

Why does it always shock the “scientists” when they discover healthy, thriving coral reefs?
It seems as if every newly discovered reef is healthy and thriving… particularly if it is in a remote area and not frequented by scuba divers?
How are these remote reefs miraculously immune to Gorebal Warming and Ocean Neutralization?
Coral reefs can even handle being denigrated as endangered species…

Hybrid Corals: Sex Gone Awry or Saving Grace?
As the full moons of late summer and fall rise, so too, does the libido of threatened staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and elkhorn (Acropora palmata) corals.

By Marah J. Hardt on September 25, 2014
As the full moons of late summer and fall rise, so too, does the libido of threatened staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and elkhorn (Acropora palmata) corals. Awakened from a year of sexual slumber, each species shakes off the shackles of celibacy to engage in a mass-spawning a few days after the brightest nights. Facing declines of up to 97 percent in the past 30 years, these two species have been beaten back by disease, pollution, overfishing and climate change. Their yearly spawning should be a time of celebration. But after millions of years of successful group sex, the very act of reproduction may now be contributing to their ultimate demise.
A report this summer adds to a growing body of evidence that another coral, Acropora prolifera, may be overtaking reef real estate formerly occupied by elkhorns and staghorns. Far from a foreign invader, genetic tests show this coral is in fact the offspring of an elkhorn and staghorn cross. A. prolifera is a hybrid. And its apparent rise is an indication of coral sex gone awry.

If Acropora cervicornis and Acropora palmata can interbreed to produce genetically viable offspring (Acropora prolifera), they are not distinct species and should not be listed as endangered species. Acropora is not endangered, prolifera should be a big, fat clue.
Coral reefs appear to be adapting quite well to climate change and Chicken Little of the Sea, if not adapting so well to scuba divers, snorkelers, agricultural runoff and fishing with dynamite.
Coral reefs really do seem to like warm water and lots of CO2 in their diets…

GBR calcification rates from:

De’ath, G., J.M. Lough, and K.E. Fabricius. 2009.
Declining coral calcification on the Great Barrier Reef.
Science, Vol. 323, pp. 116 – 119, 2 January 2009.

(Previously discussed here.)
According to Byrn et al., 2010, “Global ocean acidification is a prominent, inexorable change associated with rising levels of atmospheric CO2…”
The boron 10/11 ratio from Flinders Reef (GBR) demonstrates that seawater pH around the reef has generally ignored atmospheric CO2 over the past 250 years and that the coral has easily adapted to 0.2 pH unit swings every 50-60 years…
Declining pH has been “associated with rising levels of atmospheric CO2” since about 1990. Prior to 1990, rising and falling pH levels weren’t associated with rising or falling levels of CO2. (Station Aloha discussed here.)
However, the rising and falling pH appears to be inversely correlated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO)…
That’s really funny… Because the PDO supposedly can’t drive anything.  It’s just an index of North Pacific sea surface temperatures and Flinders Reef is in the Coral Sea.  The PDO and Flinders Reef are on opposite sides of the equator.

Reply to  David Middleton
May 2, 2017 12:58 pm

Good summary.
Divers do endanger corals, due to their sunscreen.
But reef-building organisms have survived every climate fluctuation that could be thrown at them for hundreds of millions of years. Corals themselves have been around for going on 600 million years, certainly from the Cambrian Period, ie 541 Ma. Even their living subclasses also date from the Paleozoic Era, ie before 252 Ma.

Reply to  Chimp
May 2, 2017 1:05 pm

Yep. One of the most prominent features of the Permian Basin is a massive reef complex…comment imagecomment image

The Permian period of geologic time occurred from 251 to 299 million years ago. The earth had already seen life diversify from simple, primitive forms such as algae and fungi to amphibians, fishes, and insects. The earth’s surface had also been evolving and shifting. Thin plates of crust moved constantly over the softer material below, steadily changing the position of the continents. Through much of the early and middle Permian all of the continents were joined together, forming the supercontinent of Pangea. Much of modern-day New Mexico and Texas occupied the western edge of this enormous landmass near the equator. A vast ocean surrounded Pangea, but a narrow inlet, the Hovey Channel, connected the ocean with the Permian Basin, an inland sea which covered parts of what is now northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. The Permian Basin had three arms: the Marfa, Delaware, and Midland Basins. The middle arm (the Delaware Basin) contained the Delaware Sea which covered and area 150 miles long and 75 miles wide over what is now Western Texas and Southeastern New Mexico.
During the middle part of the Permian Period a reef developed along the margin of the Delaware Sea. This was the Capitan Reef, now recognized as one of the most well-preserved fossil reefs in the world. For several million years the Capitan Reef expanded and thrived along the rim of the Delaware Basin until events altered the environment critical to its growth approximately 260 million years ago. The outlet connecting the Permian Basin to the ocean became restricted and the Delaware Sea began to evaporate faster than it could be replenished. Minerals began to precipitate out of the vanishing waters and drift to the sea floor, forming thin, alternating bands of mineral salts and mud. Gradually, over hundreds of thousands of years these thin bands completely filled the basin and covered the reef.

Reply to  Chimp
May 2, 2017 2:48 pm

No wonder Trip Funderwhatever wanted to blame AGW for killing corals. I wonder how long he’d been diving before he realized he was bleaching the coral. You can’t make that shit up.

Reply to  David Middleton
May 2, 2017 7:56 pm

“Coral flourishing at Bikini Atoll atomic test site”
Sounds positive, but soon that coral will grow to enormous size and start ravaging Tokyo.

Reply to  RoHa
May 2, 2017 7:59 pm
Richard G.
Reply to  David Middleton
May 2, 2017 11:31 pm

Amazing. All this verbiage about coral bleaching and hot water, and yet not one word of ACTUAL Temperature Data. Not in the original article, not in any of David’s quoted articles. (A couple of late referenced to temperature anomalies.)
Not much science here, just science like literature. Perhaps the corals merely hired a new interior decorator and changed color schemes?

Reply to  Richard G.
May 3, 2017 1:43 am

Generally speaking, that’s what coral bleaching is.

Reply to  Richard G.
May 3, 2017 2:57 am

What is coral bleaching?
When corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white. This is called coral bleaching. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.
In 2005, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs in the Caribbean in one year due to a massive bleaching event. The warm waters centered around the northern Antilles near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico expanded southward. Comparison of satellite data from the previous 20 years confirmed that thermal stress from the 2005 event was greater than the previous 20 years combined.
Not all bleaching events are due to warm water.
Regarding temperatures… The Great Barrier Reef has grown faster as the climate has warmed up from the Little Ice Age…
The Holocene Climatic Optimum (8,000 to 5,000 years ago) was 1-2 °C warmer than it is today… Coral Reefs thrived.
The previous interglacial stage, the Sangamonian/Eemian (~135,000 years ago) was 3-5 °C warmer than it is today… Coral reefs thrived.
The Mesozoic Era was as much as 10 °C warmer (maybe more) than it is today, atmospheric CO2 was far higher and the average pH of the oceans was significantly lower, yet… Coral reefs thrived.

Reply to  David Middleton
May 2, 2017 11:51 pm

Great work, David! I always enjoy your writing: full of factual evidence plus good-natured humour. Keep on doing what you do.

May 2, 2017 11:54 am

Protecting reefs is important work. It has nothing to do with AGW, of course, but more importantly limiting destructive fishing practices and over-fishing reef building symbiots, reining in pollution affecting near-shore reefs, limiting sediment deposition, banning coral mining, etc.
All for these things — there is nothing to be done about sea water surface temperatures affecting shallow-water reefs — we are not in charge of that.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
May 2, 2017 11:58 am


May 2, 2017 12:09 pm

Aside from all the arguments in recent years about whether most coral reefs are “bleaching” or not, and if so why, I would just like to register my objection to the term “bleaching”, which is extremely misleading and prejudicial.
There is no “bleach” in coral reef “bleaching” (like “there’s no crying in baseball”). Bleaching implies a chemical-induced pollution event, not a normal biological process engaged in by corals. It certainly sounds much scarier and more evil than the actual biological event is.
By the way, corals have not only survived and thrived throughout the “ice age” of the Pleistocene, but corals are far older than that .. with large deposits here in my home state of Florida that date back to the Eocene (up to 54 MYA), and in other parts of the world, corals are known to date back to the late Cambrian, about 500 MYA, and throughout geological history corals have suffered multiple extinction events, yet still managed to keep coming back.

Reply to  Duane
May 2, 2017 12:30 pm

In Florida there are coral quarries onshore from times when sea level was higher and drowned reefs far offshore from times when sea level was lower. When the seas rise and fall, coral reefs move.
Coral is very resilient.

Dodgy Geezer
May 2, 2017 12:16 pm

I see what the problem is here. You have used observations of a REAL system. What a mistake!
You should have used a model…

May 2, 2017 12:20 pm

No wait there’s a 2000 litre fish tank that says otherwise.

Steve Case
May 2, 2017 12:38 pm

“Study: some coral reefs are adapting to ‘climate change’ just fine”
Who came up with that headline? Less than a degree of warming since 1850 and we buy into the term “Climate Change”?
Everyone who’s at odds with Global Warming/Climate Change might as well just roll over and play dead.

steve mcdonald
May 2, 2017 12:39 pm

Sea level drop is lethal to coral which is exposed.
Coral of the same spices is living healthily in the warmer average temperatures as those north of the Great Barrier Reef.
The mmgw cartel are drowning in propaganda.

May 2, 2017 12:57 pm

Our children just won’t know what coral bleaching is!

May 2, 2017 1:45 pm

From the article: “NEW YORK (May 2, 2017) – A new WCS study reveals evidence that some corals are adapting to warming ocean waters”
You would get the impression from this statement above that all the oceans of the world are warming, but this is actually a localized warming of water in the Pacific ocean caused by El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), not by human-caused global warming/climate change.

Steve Case
Reply to  TA
May 2, 2017 2:05 pm


May 2, 2017 2:34 pm

I saw on a PBS special on Australia’s coral reefs that it is the Crown of Thorns starfish that is destroying all the coral. The farming in North Eastern Australia is sending fertilizers and silt into the coastal waters and over fishing is causing a population explosion in the starfish population. Every decade a wave of these starfish cause huge areas of coral to be wiped out by the starfish. Bleaching is only a small percentage of the corals destruction. Google crown of thorns starfish & Great Barrier Reef to read more about this. Why are they blaming Climate Change on coral destruction?

Tom Judd
Reply to  nick S
May 2, 2017 5:16 pm

Because fat cat investors in windmills need their government subsidies.

charles nelson
May 2, 2017 2:51 pm

I look forward to the time when the water is warm enough for coral in Donegal.

May 2, 2017 4:10 pm

The main cause of bleaching appears to be sudden reductions in sea level, as occurred on the Great Barrier Reef during the last El Nino.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
May 2, 2017 5:03 pm

When global warming itself is insignificant, how come coral reefs adapting global warming? Scientists must come with real causes for coral reefs destruction and recovering.
We must not forget the fact that local climates present high inter-annual, inter-seasonal, inter-day variations. Also these follow the natural variation in rainfall and temperature.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

May 2, 2017 6:12 pm

Last I heard, it wasn’t the warming that was killing the corals, it was lower tides. Or crown-of-thorn starfish. Or pollution. Or actually all that alarmist noise was nonsense – the corals were doing just fine.
Point of fact: in 2011 I visited my favorite little nook of the Anadaman Sea, only to find the beautiful hard corals I’d always relished seeing nearly wiped out. Estimates had 97% of those corals – over an area the size of the nation of Turkey – severely bleached. Half of them would die. Local divers had seen the 5-degree temperature spike in their dive computers. Had watched the coral light up in fluorescent colors as they released their symbiotic algae. Then watched them whiten and die.
As for “some corals are doing fine”… ever heard of the passenger pigeon? At that time , there were those who mocked alarmists too. Pointed to the ever dwindling flocks to say some were “doing just fine”. Until all of them were dead.

Reply to  dvaytw
May 3, 2017 1:06 am

I recommend you should read THE BIBLE on the past history of coralic doom on the iconic 2,300 Km (1,400 mile) long Great Barrier Reef (Australia).
It claims a loss of coral cover from the beginning of observable time in 1985 through 2012 at 51%. Out of that only 10% (= 5% net) was attributed to bleaching* whereas the massive broadly described greater losses were from tropical cyclones and predatory starfish.
* Of all varieties of bleaching, and without mention of various other known causes of mortality!
<b<You asserted:
“Local divers had seen the 5-degree temperature spike in their dive computers”
If you meant in degrees F (clue in your American spelling?), even that seems to be a tad unusual. Do you have a link to the source of that astonishing data including a definition of ‘spike’; like do you mean momentarily or daily or what?
You also wrote:
“Had watched the coral light up in fluorescent colors as they released their symbiotic algae. Then watched them whiten and die.”
Are you implying they whitened at some time after their symbionts departed? How long did the observers sit there watching the corals actually die? Australian coral reef mortality experts assess the ultimate damage many months after the observed bleaching. For instance, the final assessments for the GBR 2016 mass bleaching have not yet been published!
Bob Fernley-Jones

May 2, 2017 6:52 pm

Very interesting! I have heard before that corals are adapting, as all organisms do. Some reefs can even regenerate depending on their depth and initial complexity. It’s sort of an evolutionary arms race between the corals and the warming ocean temperatures. Unfortunately, the rate at which the oceans are currently warming makes it seem that the warming temperatures are going to win this race.

Reply to  berhead
May 2, 2017 8:19 pm

@ Berhead,
In the case of the Great Barrier Reef which has had four recognised mass bleaching events as from 1998, the underlying SST linear warming rate since 1900 is less than a tenth of a degree C which is observed to be well within holobiont recovery/adaptation capability in itself.
Anomalies (noise) such as notably with big El Ninos and erratic ocean circulations are relatively massive and coincide with mass bleaching events.

Reply to  bobfj
May 2, 2017 8:21 pm

Sorry less than a tenth of a degree C per decade

Reply to  bobfj
May 2, 2017 8:23 pm

Thanks for the link!

Reply to  berhead
May 2, 2017 8:36 pm

Water temperature has been increasing at less than a hundredth of a degree C per year on the Great Barrier Reef. There was no bleaching reported in 2015 and yet in 2016 there was the greatest mass bleaching ever reported, despite that there was only around half a hundredth of a degree F warming “caused by CO2” since the year before. (See link above for data)
Bob Fernley-Jones

Reply to  bobfj
May 2, 2017 8:39 pm

Groan, sorry,
I’m tired, read about two hundredths of a degree F above!

Reply to  bobfj
May 2, 2017 8:41 pm

I know that a lot of the articles I’ve read, attribute the increased frequency of bleaching events to the pollutants along with the warming with some indication that increased extreme weather events due to the climate change is also a contributing factor. I clicked on the link, I didn’t realise that water temperatures were increasing so steadily, I’ll have to read up on that.

Reply to  berhead
May 3, 2017 6:55 am

What warming? Are you referencing the claimed 0.01C that the Argos buoys are alleged to have found?

May 2, 2017 7:41 pm

“Bleaching takes place when stressed corals discharge beneficial algae that supply energy to corals causing them to turn pale or white and often starve.”
So the question is how to supply ‘pale[d] corals’ with the right type of algae for better adaption on the new conditions.

May 2, 2017 7:54 pm

Kind of ‘coral gardening’.

May 3, 2017 10:18 am

There is still a big mistake: Climate change can not heat the water in the oceans.
The water in the oceans are heated by ultraviolet and visible solar radiation that have penetration into the water and geothermal heat.
Neither the air temperature nor the infrared radiation can heat them because the heat supplied is used to evaporate the surface water (latent heat).

Reply to  indio007
May 3, 2017 11:47 am

Stephen Wilde (Royal Meteorological Society) explains this in detail:
“However the effect of downwelling infrared is always to use up all the infrared in increasing the temperature of the ocean surface molecules whilst leaving nothing in reserve to provide the extra energy required (the latent heat of evaporation) when the change of state occurs from water to vapour. That extra energy requirement is taken from the medium (water or air) in which it is most readily available. If the water is warmer then most will come from the water. If the air is warmer then most will come from the air. However over the Earth as a whole the water is nearly always warmer than the air (due to solar input) so inevitably the average global energy flow is from oceans to air via that latent heat of evaporation in the air and the energy needed is taken from the water. This leads to a thin (1mm deep) layer of cooler water over the oceans worldwide and below the evaporative region that is some 0.3C cooler than the ocean bulk below.”

May 4, 2017 5:37 am

In what sense, pray tell, are corals now “adapting” to changes in a climate which has changed continually for 600 million years, to current changes which are in no way exceptional?
Does Climagesterium orthodoxy require inversion of the arrow of time?

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