Status of Caribbean coral reefs after bleaching and hurricanes in 2005

The “Status of Caribbean coral reefs after bleaching and hurricanes in 2005” is an excellent account of the impact of mass bleaching and hurricanes that hit the Caribbean in 2005. As you will remember, sea temperatures rose sharply in this region in May 2005, intensifying until October by which time hotspots covered most countries in the eastern Caribbean.  This occurred during the hottest year on record for the northern hemisphere at that time, and resulted in a massive die off of corals.

As pointed out by the editors, Clive Wilkinson and David Souter, the 2005 event provided an important opportunity to study the impact of extreme thermal stress on coral reefs.  Via network of hundreds of scientists that were linked by the Internet and backed up by sophisticated monitoring tools, key information and insights would gained into the relationship between thermal stress, bleaching and coral mortality.

Overall, coral reefs in eastern Caribbean were severely damaged by anyone’s estimate in 2005.  What is perhaps most alarming is that the mortality ranged up to 50% in places like the US Virgin Islands and the Greater and Lesser Antilles.  This came on top off a rapid deterioration of reefs that has been occurring over the past few decades.  The coral cover of most (if not all) coral reefs in this region have been sliding rapidly downwards.

This is a useful collection of papers which I recommend that you read (link).  My good friend Billy Causey, who has a long and proud history of fighting for the protection of Florida’s coral reefs, provides a very useful account of the history of bleaching in his region. There is also some useful information as well on the hurricane story, including on what drives their intensity and how they impacted reefs in 2005.

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