Coral in Hawii recovering from El Nino bleaching

From the “not global warming” department

Nearly four years after the worst bleaching event in the state’s history, coral reefs in West Hawaiʽi are stabilizing and poised to recover, according to scientists from The Nature Conservancy.

Photo: The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i.

Higher than usual ocean water temperatures in 2015 caused the first statewide coral bleaching event. TNC surveys revealed that an average of 60% of corals in West Hawaiʻi bleached, with some reefs experiencing up to 90% mortality. Corals bleach under stress, and severe or prolonged stress can lead to death.

For the last three years, TNC scientists have studied West Hawaiʻi’s coral reefs to identify the most resilient, meaning they can resist or recover from the stress of warmer ocean temperatures.

“Bleaching events like what occurred in 2015 can overstress a coral reef to the point where it may never recover,” said Dr. Eric Conklin, director of marine science for TNC’s Hawaiʻi program. “We surveyed over 14,000 coral colonies at 20 sites along the West Hawaiʻi coast from Kawaihae to Keauhou and were thrilled to see that many of the area’s reefs have stabilized, which is the first step toward recovery.”

Surveys showed that many of the most resilient reefs are in remote areas with limited shoreline access and exposure to human impacts. These reefs had lots of corals and little or no coral disease, and there was evidence that new corals were beginning to grow.

The least resilient sites all had multiple “stressors,” including fishing pressure, land-based pollutants and runoff. “Interestingly, the number of stressors affecting an area, not the severity of a single one, was the most important factor,” said Kim Hum, the Conservancy’s marine program director. “Reefs that are fighting the impacts of several stressors are more susceptible to temperature stress, making them more likely to bleach and less able to recover if they do.”

Photo: The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i.

Surveys identified 25 coral species in West Hawaiʻi. Lobe coral (Porites lobata), one of the area’s most dominant species, proved to be the most resilient—with only 50% bleaching in 2015. Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora meandrina) were hardest hit—with 98% bleaching—but recent surveys show that they are beginning to recover.

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62 thoughts on “Coral in Hawii recovering from El Nino bleaching

  1. The story makes not one mention of climate change. Bleaching events should be properly viewed as an evolved form of adaptation, a selection event, whereby the recovery allows fitter replacements to occupy the reef niches. Thus the bleaching is a part of the reefs’ natural life cycle, not unlike a wild fire in a forest ecosystem where it is the fire that allows the seeds to be released to re-start a new forest of trees.

    • Would someone please “make up my mind” for me?

      Is this what CAUSES “coral bleaching”, to wit:

      Quoting article:

      Higher than usual ocean water temperatures in 2015 caused the first statewide coral bleaching event. TNC surveys revealed that an average of 60% of corals in West Hawaiʻi bleached, with some reefs experiencing up to 90% mortality.

      Or is this what PREVENTS “coral bleaching”, to wit:

      Quoting article:

      Surveys showed that many of the most resilient reefs are in remote areas with limited shoreline access and exposure to human impacts. These reefs had lots of corals and little or no coral disease,

      Maybe it’s the suntan lotions, perfumes and deodorants that the “swimming” tourists are using that are killing off the coral’s food supply?

      • Samuel,

        “Reefs that are fighting the impacts of several stressors are more susceptible to temperature stress, making them more likely to bleach and less able to recover if they do.”

        Where do you get “prevention”? An analogy: malnutrition makes people more susceptible to dying from disease. How, in this case, would disease be preventative?

        • Kristi, ….. the “point” I was making went “swoooopppsh” …… right over your head.

          First they claimed it was “water temperature” that caused coral bleaching.

          Then they de facto claimed that “human activities” caused coral bleaching.

          • Samuel,

            Where did they claim human activities caused coral bleaching? If that were true, there would be bleaching in those areas regardless of temperature changes. What is it about “more susceptible” you don’t understand?

            You still didn’t address the “prevention” question.

          • Samuel,
            Where did they claim human activities caused coral bleaching?

            “DUH”, ….. coral reef bleaching “PREVENTION” ….. keep humans the hell away from coral reefs because bleaching doesn’t occur if …. “reefs are in remote areas with limited shoreline access and exposure to human impacts”.

            If that were true, there would be bleaching in those areas regardless of temperature changes. What is it about “more susceptible” you don’t understand?

            “DUH”, ….. what is it about their specific claim that you don’t understand, kristi silber, ….. that it is true, ….. TRUE that the water temperature changed all around the coastline but bleaching didn’t occur all around the coastline.

            Do you have a problem with “common sense thinking” and/or “logical reasoning”, …. or is it just “memory recall”?

          • Those reefs that experienced direct human stresses made the corals more susceptible to bleaching, and less able to recover. That does not mean that the human stresses in themselves caused the bleaching. Maybe they do so if severe enough, but that was not addressed in this article. The article did not anywhere say that human activities were the cause of coral bleaching.

            Since this is just a press release and apparently the study has not been published, it’s difficult to evaluate its scientific merit. All I did was respond when you asked for “someone to make up your mind” for you regarding what was said.

            (Personally, it seems to me that the case for sunscreen having an effect on in situ corals has not been well-demonstrated. In most cases, the concentration levels are extremely low.)

          • Those reefs that experienced direct human stresses made the corals more susceptible to bleaching …..

            “YUP”, …… and direct Spanish flu virus stresses made the populace more susceptible to an agonizing death ….. resulting in tens-of- millions dying.

            And kristi silber, ….. iffen you consume lots of “brown beans” you will, more than likely, be susceptible to producing copious amounts of flatulence when you least expect it.

            But your immediate problem is, …… weazelwording and “blowing smoke” at me and thinking you can get by with it without being criticized for said.

    • Joel,

      If bleaching events were “an evolved form of adaptation” they would be a positive mechanism for survival, not the effect of a selection event. Nor are selection events part of the’ “natural life cycle.”

      Seed germination as a result of fire is an evolved adaptation, yes, but not itself a selection event. The selection happens with those that germinate in the absence of fire don’t survive to reproduce because of the competition from surrounding trees.

      • kristi silber, ….. is the ”mass dying” of specific species (western NA) of adult salmon after egg laying/fertilization, …… a positive mechanism for survival, …… or ….. the effect of a selection event?

  2. Bleaching events like what occurred in 2015 can overstress a coral reef to the point where it may never recover

    Sounds to me as if they are speculating. Obviously, they can’t let a piece of good news out without tacking on a doom-laden message. After all, it’s climate science, where “worse than we thought” is normal and “may not be quite as bad as we thought” is counted as extravagant optimism.

    • The “may never recover” phrase got my attention also. Can the author explain the scientific basis and the probability for that particular reef not recovering? Or does that fall under the category of ‘unsupported hypothesis’?

      • Yes that struck me as ridiculous. Surely there isn’t 100% death and even if there was, exactly how long until re-colonization starts and re-populates the reef?

        • Not long. Coral larvae are pelagic and drift with the currents until they find a suitable place to settle.

          A coral reef will not recover only if conditions have become permanently unsuitable, or if it is so far from the nearest other reef that no larvae settle there. N. B. no such islands are known in the tropical Pacific.

          • Ssssshhhh!! Don’t tell the warmunists. We have to keep the catastrophe on the verge for decades so that we can keep Trillions flowing to the IPCC’s chosen scientists. We can discount the thousands who disagree with them since they’re obviously biased and have no ethics whatsoever.

            Hey! I twelve years we’ll all be dead so no biggie. AOC knows what’s up.

          • From this press release, the presence of additional stressors is hindering the recovery of some reefs. It’s also worth noting that some coral species are more sensitive and/or slower growing than others. While coral reef of some sort may grow back after a fatal bleaching event, it won’t necessarily be the same in structure or diversity. Those can, in turn, affect the rest of the community (and its economic value).

            The report mentioned disease. I don’t know much about this, but maybe presence of disease could affect reproduction and regrowth?

            The real concern is that bleaching events will become more common in the future, so that even reefs that aren’t stressed by factors other than temperature won’t be able to fully recover before the next event happens, leading to a gradual decline in the whole reef system. Even if some survive, the loss in biodiversity could have collateral effects.

          • And kristi silber, ….. claims ….

            The real concern is that bleaching events will become more common in the future

            And kristi silber’s “crystal ball” is never wrong.

        • Yup – a specific coral animal or colony of animals gets stressed, “bleaches” itself as a recovery mechanism, and may or may not die as a result. But given that billions of little baby corals are discharged by surviving corals, they latch on to any dead coral skeletons and voila! A new colony is born on top of the old one.

          Coral reefs simply don’t die out completely. They wax and wane with changes in conditions over eons of time.

          And the term “bleaching” is highly unscientific and intentionally misleading as there is no chemical bleach involved at all. It is simply the corals discharging the tiny organisms that live within and upon the corals … to be replaced with other tiny organisms that come along later on. It is not a chemical spill as the term “bleaching” implies.

          • Duane,

            While it is hypothesized that the symbiotic zooxanthellae may be expelled as a mechanism to allow different, better adapted strains to take their place, this is nothing more than a hypothesis at this point; simply calling it a “recovery mechanism” minimizes the potential impact – death of the coral.

            Under some circumstances, coral reefs do die out. Why should they be impervious to stress and degradation? Sometimes conditions change enough that they are replaced by algal beds, for example.

            Bleaching means to whiten. The chemical was called “bleach” for its properties. There is nothing misleading about the term, and it is accepted in the scientific literature.

  3. It shouldn’t be shocking that a species with a 200 million year history is resilient to environmental stresses.

    If any of this can be taken at face value, it would seem that warmer water was only one factor among many contributing to the bleaching event.

    I’m not so sure that it can be taken at face value though. What sort of fundraising story would it have been to report that their fundraising story of a few years ago turns out to have been overwrought? It’s convenient that another angle could be found to demonize humans and divert attention from the inconvenient truth that bleaching events do not represent die-out events.

    • Yup – if coral reefs survived a couple dozen glaciation-interglacial cycles over the last 2.3 million years, what makes anybody think they won’t survive the current interglacial cycle?

  4. you would think it would occur to them that the corals next to shores are not doing as well because that’s normal…wave action and rain washes silt on them…and silt is their worst enemy…has nothing to do with human impacts
    …and yet, those tuff little buggers still grow

    • Latitude,

      Silt has nothing to do with human impacts? It sure can.

      Not every area of Hawaii is equally occupied or its reefs equally visited, so presumably it might be possible to estimate the relative severity of different impacts. Hard to say if that was done, or how well – haven’t been able to find any publication of the research, which makes the study hard to evaluate.

  5. Mod/Anthony –

    “Coral in Hawii recovering from El Nino bleaching”

    Um, what about the Corals in Hawaii?

  6. Somebody was observing and taking notes. I found it interesting that they found the number of stressors was more important than the magnitude of any one stressor. From that, I take it that more of the survivors only had the increased temperature to contend with.

    WUWT had an article a couple of years ago where they found that the ingredients in sun screens were toxic to corals. I wonder if the worst bleaching was where there were the most tourists?

  7. “Higher than usual ocean water temperatures in 2015 caused the first statewide coral bleaching event.”

    First “on record” I suppose, which likely doesn’t go back very far.

    • WRT Cuban reefs:

      Until 1994, coral bleaching was fragmentarily documented, with no reliable information about the extent of the events. link

      So, yeah, nobody was looking.

      Coral reefs have been dying and regrowing forever. At the beginning of the current interglacial, sea levels were about 400 feet below where they are now. That means none of the world’s present coral reefs existed. link That means also that all the old reefs died.

      Coral can obviously move and adapt. Coral can also be cultivated. link That all makes me wonder how seriously to treat bleaching events.

      • Well, the main concern about the Great Barrier Reef is – (as Barack Obama framed it) – that it still be there for his daughters to visit.
        So if the GBR makes it to, oh – 2030 – all will be good.

      • commieBob,

        I had to laugh at something from your first link: ” In 2017, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia experienced the largest bleaching event in the history of the planet. ” Wow! In the history of the planet! That’s a long time.

        Your quote is from an article about Cuba. That doesn’t mean everywhere. You didn’t mention the reference to a 1983 event, also noted in another article on the same page, “During the El Niño of 1982–83, large areas of coral reefs around the world were severely damaged by high water temperatures.” And it’s not as if people weren’t scuba diving and snorkeling before then. I don’t know why it would have been noticed in 1983, but not in the decades before then if it had happened.

        • I think the big deal is methodical study and the documentation thereof. Anything else is just anecdote.

          • commieBob,

            You have a good point. However, one could also say that much of our knowledge of world history is “just anecdote,” but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. If there were widespread reports of people seeing abnormal bleaching in a certain time period, and only afterwards if was linked to the El Nino, that seems to me reasonable evidence to suggest they were linked.

            It is not just people in the water that might notice bleaching, but people fishing, which could increase the reporting tremendously.

            FWIW, “Mass coral moralities in coral reef ecosystems have been reported in all major reef provinces since the 1870s. The frequency and scale of bleaching disturbances has increased dramatically since the late 70’s. This is possibly due to more observers and a greater interest in reporting in recent years. More than 60 coral reef bleaching events out of 105 mass coral moralities were reported between 1979-1990, compared with only three bleaching events among 63 mass coral moralities recorded during the preceding 103 years.” Not scientific, just an interesting note – and says nothing about the cause or extent of the bleaching events.
            https://www.marinebiology.org/coralbleaching.htm – the page is a nice summary of coral bleaching.

  8. My lawn “bleaches” during a hot dry summer, yet always comes back.
    It is almost as if, it has some kind of protective mechanism, that ensures its survival.

    • Blasphemy! You’re obviously working for the oil companies.
      Culling and survival of the fittest in nature?!! Preposterous!

      Next you’ll be telling me that western civilization isn’t to blame for almost every extinction event on the planet. You probably believe the insane notion that the British people should decide what’s best for themselves instead of U.N. bureaucrats.

  9. Bleaching – pfffft.
    The corals at Bikini Atoll got utterly demolished by the bomb tests in the ’50s, but only 60 years later, they were ~ 80% regrown.
    Seems that cockroaches and corals might be the only ones to survive the atomic armageddon.

  10. So has the Great Barrier Reef coral recovered from the same Super El Nino bleaching event, exactly as Peter Ridd, formally of James Cook University, said it would. He was right, the AGW/CC extremists were wrong. Waiting to hear their apology … when pigs fly.

    • Yes and yet the hysterical bleachists are spending huge funding trying to breed tougher corals in a hope to ”re-seed” the reef. Absolute waste of time and money. I sware these people (women mainly) are so far up their own backsides they can’t see what is really happening.

    • The thing is Fred, people at JCU and AIMs knew during the mid-1990s how quickly the coral recovered from major disturbances, and why. They also knew then that periodic major disturbances were key to promoting vibrant re-growth, with far greater diversity and far greater coral cover (like >90%) than video transects observation of the exact same reef areas (measured every year) in earlier years had shown. This was well known, and it was not just Peter Ridd who knew this, and he wasn’t predicting anything, it was all present within the AIMS Long-Term Monitoring Annual Report results pages.

      i.e. A relatively ‘sick’ low diversity reef was one where the reef had not been sufficiently disturbed enough and the species diversity fall away progressively while the coral cover typically declines down to around 30%, as the larger longer-lived species come to dominate a reef again.

      In other words, cyclones and bleaching both acted on the reef is similar fashion to how bush fires do, on a landscape, which causes a sudden explosion in the germination of latent seeds, and sudden opportunities for rapid re-growth of plants.

      Would anyone be dumb enough to suggest that repeated bush fires results in plants NEVER recovering again? No way! You’d be howled down and your career would be toast.

      But that’s effectively what certain institutions, govt.orgs, several universities (not just JCU, but they are the most absurd about it) and NGOs, political groups and individuals have been constantly claiming, with respect to coral damage and die-back on the GBR. When all the observational evidence we’d paid a fortune to acquire showed the exact opposite!

      So why bother with science-based monitoring at all, when the ‘scientists’ don’t care what the data shows?

      Why Peter Ridd did was say, “Hey, this Emperor has no cloths on, you can see that right?”. But he got howled down and his career was toasted instead.

      When coral dies (from whatever cause) it is providing living space (less competition) and shelter on a substrate for the continuously present planktonic phase of coral larvae to drift in and find a place to settle and grow in extraordinary profusion and very rapidly (just like bushfire re-growth rates).

      If you want to see a really healthy reef, you just visit one that was more-or-less destroyed about three years ago, and your eyes will almost pop-out looking at all the color and species and coral cover present. The bottom line is, the reef thrives on its own demise and destruction. And JCU knew that very well decades ago and so did all the blowhards who proclaimed an immanent GBR coral apocalypse.

      And then our Federal Government rushed to give HALF A BILLION DOLLARS AUD to those who lied about it all, while Peter Ridd got shafted for merely telling the truth, which the whole lot of them already knew.

      • WXcycles,

        You are alleging nothing less than a world-wide conspiracy theory. Why would there be such a thing? Who stands to gain from it? Do you suppose people can’t think of other research that would get funded? Are they all in collusion with the climate scientists (and they, in turn, with the leftist globalist genocidal eco-loons – is that part of your story, too)? Who’s organizing it? Do you have any idea how difficult it would be to perpetrate such a massive fraud? It makes no sense!

        It’s amazing to me that people can so blithely accuse who groups of complete lack of integrity just because they don’t like their scientific conclusions.

        Why is Ridd more believable than 100s of scientists around the world, when he doesn’t even do research on the same thing? If he disagrees with the results of others’ research, he should replicate it and write it up, not say on the TV news that multiple scientific institutions are untrustworthy.

        Cyclones do not have the same kind of impact as bleaching events. Cyclones are disruptions that damage certain parts of a reef more than others, they don’t last for 2-3 consecutive seasons, they don’t damage 1300 miles of reef at once or preferentially damage certain species across wide ranges. And it is not expected that cyclones will get so much more severe and frequent that they have the potential for large areas of reef to become permanently deteriorated.

        • I’m “alleging” nothing, this is what has actually been taking place, it’s been well documented. The fraud and corruption and lies are occurring in plain sight, there’s nothing secret about it, it’s flagrant and bold-as-brass. Many people have pointed out that the carefully gathered published data exists which shows the GBR corals are anything but vulnerable, data which total contradicts everything the so-called ‘coral experts’ have been claiming, especially those from JCU and affiliated NGOs and media pets.

          What do they have to gain? Seriously?

          BILLIONS OF DOLLARS!

          “… If he [Ridd] disagrees with the results of others’ research, he should replicate it and write it up, …”

          There’s host of publications in the AIMS long Term Monitoring Program Annual Reports, going back to the late 1980s forward which make very clear that it was known clearly in the mid-1990s that the GBR corals were anything by endangered. They were observed to thrive in disruption and destruction of reef systems, and very rapidly recovered.

          Don’t you even know this?

          This data has been gathered EVERY YEAR, from the same video transects, on the same reefs, at 50 major reefs along the length of the GBR. This is known, it has been ‘repeated’, there is no dispute in the data, we are not talking about one of your dippy pet computer simulations Kristi, this is actual observation of damage and recovery patterns, spanning DECADES.

          We know what the coral does when destroyed by bleaching, it isn’t a mystery. We know how rapidly it recovers. It isn’t a secret.

          I don’t care if you can’t process that, or pretend to not understand it, that’s your problem, others have seen it happening first-hand and have seen the denial of it by people with vested interests in pretending the GBR is under dire threat.

          It isn’t, It never has been.

          Silber: “… Cyclones do not have the same kind of impact as bleaching events. Cyclones are disruptions that damage certain parts of a reef more than others, they don’t last for 2-3 consecutive seasons, they don’t damage 1300 miles of reef at once or
          It is wholesale systematic corruption, seeking political exploitation adn media coverage of fake reporting to obtain public money under false pretenses, and as we just saw again, TODAY, it has worked for them. …”

          Total rubbish, major cyclones have many times traveled down the long-axis of the reef from NNW to SSE, it’s a common place event, and sometimes severe cyclones affect the same areas of reef 2 to 3 times within a single summer! You have no clue.

          I do not believe for one second you can possibly be as fantastically gullible or naive as you continually pretend to be, on this and related matters. Your endless laughable apologetics for outright scientific corruption is a joke in this place.

          Don’t waste my time with your absurd sycophantic blather.

        • kristi, it’s not about anyone not wanting to believe your scientists. This doesn’t have anything to do with what you or anyone else, “believes”. It’s about your scientists trying to cover up or ignore multiple studies by our scientists. It’s about your simulations repeatedly failing and our accurate data continually being overlooked or, “adjusted”. You’re at a continual disadvantage because it’s about our 1000s of scientists vs. your 100s. Since you have the leverage of traditional media cronies and tech giant cronies we may seem silent but we vastly outnumber you whether we have the voice or not. We actually are concerned with the truth as opposed to what you want to believe. That’s what science is supposed to be about.

          You say Ridd should “replicate it”? So he’s supposed to go back in time? What are you even talking about? If the data supports a high percentage of reseeding after bleaching shouldn’t someone somewhere ever say that your catastrophic speculations are ridiculous. You’re playing the go out and work yourself to death so that you can’t ever have the energy to write an article about anything game. Ridd ain’t gonna fall for that one, sorry. WXcycles has a lot of good references and data. Why don’t you try and look at some of them?

  11. “… “Bleaching events like what occurred in 2015 can overstress a coral reef to the point where it may never recover,” said Dr. Eric Conklin, director of marine science for TNC’s Hawaiʻi program. … ”

    Is this known to have occurred anywhere, or is this just part of your personal hysteria narrative? meh … bleached over-stressed bank account is more likely …

  12. Coral reefs in their present locations worldwide took a hundred-thousand-year sabbatical during the last glacial period – and the several before. This happened dozens of times in the past two million years, and probably thousands of times in coral’s 200 million-year existence. Coral’s resilience has been ably demonstrated to all except to some of its most dedicated scientific observers. What is it they see in coral today that is at such a dramatic departure from the corals of yesteryear? Has coral history been banished to make room for the necessity to save coral from nature’s indifference? I guess “then was then, and now is now.”

  13. My understanding about Coral is that we have the white coral, and on that we have all of the wonderful coloured creatures.

    And its the colourful creatures who get killed off, but the coral is still alive . So every year we have this explosion of the “Seeding” when billions of seeds get blasted oat of the reefs, and they drift all over the Ocean , and where they find something to settle down on and breed, they do.

    As for the likes of JCU, its all about money. Tell a Politician that the world famous Great Barrier Reef s is dying, and the result is panic, then lots of money is forthcoming.

    No wonder they JCU were unhappy when Peter Cook told the truth.

    MJE

    • “unhappy when Peter Cook told the truth.”

      Did you mean Peter Ridd? I think Peter Cook was more concerned with the Barking Toad and saving the whales.

  14. When did Hawaii start getting spelled with pronunciation? Hawai’i? Did I miss that memo?

    Are we going to start littering all our other spelling with pronunciation marks now too? Oh let me try

    Th’is i’s d’awg doo’

    I’m not even going to address the “may” comment. Yes, it ‘may’ recover and if that particular area doesn’t, well, lets look at the new area that is growing shall we?

    I’m so tired of the focus on the negative.

    • New area! Why, you must be trying to convince the unwitting populace that there might be a species that is more adaptable to a higher level of acid, erosion, or temperature fluctuation. How horrid! Next you’ll be telling us that we’re not all going to die in twelve years unless we get rid of all fossil fuels and motor vehicles. The end is near!

      I may be being melodramatic and facetious here but only the “esteemed” scientists at TNC know for sure.

    • Hawai’i is the correct hawai’ian spelling. The ‘ is not a pronunciation mark, it is a consonant, a glottal stop. However since glottal stops do not occur in most european languages including english it is usually ignored in english text.

  15. Apoligies, s, of course its Peter Ridd. His Court case is still slowly moving through the legal system.

    Today we hear that our PM Morrison, has given into pressure from his Greenish M.P’s and promised 1 billion dollaes to fight “Climate Change”

    Its overdue for our politicians to say to the Greens that as Climate change comes from Global Warming and as its no longer warming, what is the problem. But no way, they might lose a vote or two.

    MJE

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