Citizen science tracking coral bleaching in the WIO


A popularized article ‘Coral Bleaching: Using Participatory Reporting To Track Mass-Bleaching In The Western Indian Ocean‘ has been featured on Science Trends, a science communication platform projecting peer-reviewed research out to the public.

The article describes a public reporting process on the regoinal coral bleaching event in the Western Indian Ocean in 2016, part of the the 3rd global bleaching event that impacted the world from 2014-2017.

Coral bleaching caused by abnormally high ocean temperatures is generally considered the most serious threat to the long-term survival of corals and coral reefs. Unfortunately, due to climate change, bleaching incidents are expected to increase in frequency and intensity. Between 2014 and 2017 the world experienced its third major coral bleaching event, the longest in history and a significant visual indicator that the effects of climate change are apparent and ongoing. During this event, reefs from across the world were affected at different times with reefs in the Western Indian Ocean impacted in the local summer of 2016.

In order to track bleaching in the WIO and understand the impact, data were collected through a Google Form and via email in 2016 with various stakeholders across the region (e.g. general public, scientists, reef managers, divers) contributing to the initiative.

The data were analysed and the results recently published in a paper ‘Participatory reporting of the 2016 bleaching event in the Western Indian Ocean‘ in the scientific journal Coral Reefs for the upcoming special issue on the 3rd global coral bleaching event (a view-only PDF of the paper is available here https://rdcu.be/bQUYS). The Science Trends article (link above) describes the results of the study, and goes on to briefly discuss what this could mean for reefs in the future.

The authors of the paper would like to thank everyone who participated in this initiative in 2016 by contributing their data, and who continue to use the bleaching observation reporting system each year! We hope this illustrates how important your simple bleaching reports are.

Bleaching at St Leu, La Reunion in March 2016 Photo credits: Julien Wickel, MAREX

Bleaching at Anjouan Island, Comoros in April 2016. Photo credits: Zamil Manfou

Acropora colony with healthy, bleached and dead parts. Photo credits: Mishal Gudka, CORDIO