One of my students (Chris Doropoulos) noticed the onset of coral bleaching up at Heron Island. Here is Chris’s report (and photographs attached):
We arrived to Heron Island on the 5th of February and did a quick snorkel from the jetty to the shipwreck that afternoon. We noticed that lots of the Acropora aspera colonies (branching corals, see photographs above) were bleached, and that it appeared recent. What was most striking is that, in general, only the east facing sides of the colony branches were bleached and the west facing sides of branches were still intact. The bleaching had only affected the shallowest colonies, and in general it was only the A. aspera. On returning to the area 5 days later, the bleaching appeared to have become more severe and affected a much larger area of the A. aspera beds. Most of the colonies were bleached, some uniformly, but some still only on the east facing side. We didn’t notice any other bleaching on the reef flat or reef slope around the island, so at the moment the bleaching seems very localised to the harbour area.