Mapping the WIO’s Coral Bleaching Response for 2024

JAMES MBUGUA

JAMES MBUGUA

Project Manager, GIS & RS

With the emergence of El Niño in 2023, coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean face mass bleaching in 2024-2025. CORDIO East Africa, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Reef Resilience are spearheading a response strategy, work that officially begun with an open webinar on January 16, 2024. Read on to learn more.

CORDIO East Africa, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Reef Resilience on January 16, 2024, held a webinar to discuss a roadmap to preparing, monitoring and responding to forecast coral bleaching in 2024. The forum, featuring presentations by CORDIO’s coral reef research team and a coordinator with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch, drew over 240 participants. A majority of attendees were researchers, coral reef conservation champions and learning institutions also featuring prominently. The webinar enjoyed high engagement, the Q & A session eliciting a wide variety of areas for further consultation. Participant feedback was also positive, several among them thanking the webinar organizing team for pointing them to useful monitoring tools and resources for their region. Others expressed gratitude for project-related insight that they were able to garner from the discussions. Insight that participants hoped would be shared in future fora included information on how to accelerate outreach through partnerships, how to enhance citizen science for monitoring or restoration work, and other environmental indicators of coral bleaching.  

A full recording of the webinar is below.   

CORDIO’s February 1, 2024, Coral Bleaching Alert

Q & A Highlights

*Questions were submitted anonymously and answered by the webinar’s panel. 

What research projects are there in the region related to response strategies (not monitoring) of coral bleaching?

To find the most recent and accurate information on project-related bleaching response action, do check with organizations such as the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) or any research institutions in your region. Additionally, reaching out to researchers and experts in Coral Reef Ecology or Marine Biology in the WIO region may provide insights into ongoing or recent research projects related to coral bleaching response strategies.

When monitoring, collecting coral bleaching metadata, have you studied the relative depth and water chemistry, to see if there are better outcomes at deeper, cooler water depths? How deep does NOAA water surface temp measure? Is this just in the first meter (surface)?

 When collecting coral bleaching observation data or conducting reef surveys, NOAA Coral Reef Watch gathers depth profile information as a variable. This data has been utilized to study the variability of depth as a driver in various studies, including the abundance of predatory reef fish in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marenvres.2022.105587]. Chemical parameters are complemented using Earth Observation products, including chlorophyll and salinity. Regarding NOAA SST products, they measure the skin temperature of water to a few centimeters, usually less than a meter.

How can one use the coral bleaching method to monitor coral table nursery? Will the reporting modality be the same?

 You use either a high or intermediate level to assess the extent and severity of the bleaching. When reporting observations, we will recommend that you specify that the observation was made from the table nursery. This is a good point to consider in our alert system.

On the Alert

Reports of coral bleaching have already surfaced in some parts of the WIO, necessitating immediate and decisive action. CORDIO will continue to offer continuous updates and biweekly bleaching alert bulletins through to the end of the southern summer season. For any queries, do reach out kindly to bleaching@cordioea.net. Alongside our many partners, we remain committed to ensuring adequate outreach of any coral bleaching events.

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