The same coral colony bleached white on May 26 (top)
and recovered from bleaching on June 17 (bottom).
Corals that were bone-white a week ago were again green, a sure-fire sign that the corals are back to hosting photosynthetic symbionts. It appears the bleaching event is over at last.
While this is certainly good news, it doesn't mean all is well. We saw some mortality, so for some corals relief came too late. And the next bleaching event may be even more destructive.
Samples that we collected throughout the bleaching event will help us understand the resiliency of Dongsha corals. Using our coral cores, we can check how frequently bleaching occurs. We will also track how coral energetics (fat reserves, for example) changed as the corals bleached and then recovered. Further, we will see if the coral symbionts after the bleaching event are different than before bleaching. Certain "clades" of symbionts are more heat-tolerant than others, so the corals may have swapped out symbionts to better handle the heat.
- Tom DeCarlo
Joint Program in Oceanography
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution