West Hawaii Corals Have Stabilized, Making a “First Step Toward Recovery”

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After the worst coral bleaching in Hawaii back in 2015 when the temperatures rose a lot higher than usual, scientists from The Nature Conservancy have some good news for us. Finally, the coral reefs in West Hawaii are slowly getting better, reports West Hawaii Today.

The unfortunate event led to bleaching almost 60% of the corals in West Hawaii and killing about 90% of some reefs. Because of prolonged or severe stress, corals bleach and can die.

In the past three years from the bleaching, TNC scientists have studied them to find which coral reefs were more resistant. TNC’s Hawaii program’s director of marine science, Eric Conklin stated that they surveyed more than “14,000 coral colonies at 20 sites along the West Hawaii 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.”

In their survey, scientists observed that the most resistant reefs are the ones that were less exposed to human impacts, were found in remote areas and had limited shoreline. These corals were not just healthy, but new corals also began growing.

The corals that were impacted more were stressed by pollutants, fishing, and runoff. According to the Conservancy’s marine program director, Kim Hum, the more stressors affecting an area, the more susceptible corals are to other stressors like higher temperature.

The Lobe Coral More Resilient than the Cauliflower Corals

The survey done in West Hawaii on 25 coral species has identified the lobe coral (Porites lobata) as being the most dominant species and resilient, only 50% suffering from the 2015 bleaching. Meanwhile, the most sensitive corals hit with 98% bleaching were the cauliflower corals (Pocillopora meandrina).

Keeping stressors away from the corals in West Hawaii seems to have improved them and allowed them to heal and grow. These surveys will help scientists know what area must be managed to make sure that the reefs are protected.


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