CRCP scientists have joined an international team of researchers to assess the ecological, social, and economic impacts on sites and communities from the current coral bleaching event in the greater Coral Triangle region. Local partners in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia will be involved in documenting effects, focusing on dive operators and dive tourists, to study the multi-layered response of communities to bleaching events. Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is leading the effort, with additional funding support from the NOAA CRCP, the Australian Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, and The Nature Conservancy.
Bleaching has been experienced in parts of the Maldives, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Both satellite observations and the June NOAA Coral Reef Watch (CRW) Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress Outlook show that thermal stress levels in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia are coming to an end for this year, bringing relief to stressed coral reefs. The heat stress causing the aforementioned coral bleaching is expected to dissipate in the next few weeks.
However, the CRW Bleaching Outlook shows high potential for coral bleaching in the Caribbean in 2010. Temperatures have been above normal across most of the Caribbean since January, while the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Keys experienced a dramatic increase in sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in early May. The pattern and intensity of early-season SST anomalies currently being observed indicates a high potential for significant bleaching in the Caribbean region for the 2010 bleaching season. Extremely cold temperatures at the start of 2010 in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Florida area caused bleaching that left behind damaged and dead corals that may suffer additional impacts from extreme heat this summer. The 2009-2010 El Niño ended in May 2010. However, the greatest warming in the Caribbean is probably yet to come, as the Caribbean typically experiences elevated temperature during the second year of El Niño events.
The Bleaching Outlook also shows that thermal stress in the northwestern Pacific will increase during the next few months. The Philippines, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the surrounding areas may experience thermal stress levels capable of causing coral bleaching.