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Pacific island states affected by global bleaching event, scientists say

 By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Pacific island states are among the 53 countries in the world experiencing the fourth global coral bleaching event, according to coral reef scientists.

"From February 2023 to April 2024, significant coral bleaching has been documented in both the northern and southern hemispheres of each major ocean basin," said Derek Manzello, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who joined the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation on the Global Reef Expedition.

According to the foundation, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Samoas are among the affected countries, along with Florida, Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, the Red Sea (including the Gulf of Aqaba), the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden.

“As the world’s oceans continue to warm, coral bleaching is becoming more frequent and severe,” Manzello said. “When these events are sufficiently severe or prolonged, they can cause coral mortality, which can negatively impact the goods and services coral reefs provide that people depend on for their livelihoods.”

The foundation noted that coral bleaching impacts economies, livelihoods and food security.

“However, it is important to remember that coral bleaching does not always lead to coral death,” the foundation said. “Rather, if the stress driving the bleaching diminishes, corals can recover, with reefs maintaining their biodiversity and continuing to provide the ecosystem services that we rely on.”


The disclosure about global coral bleaching, made by NOAA and the International Coral Reef Initiative, comes at a time when coral reefs are facing threats to their survival.


“Bleaching-level heat stress, caused by prolonged increases in anomalous ocean temperatures, has – and continues to be – extensive across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans,” the foundation said.

“Climate model predictions for coral reefs have been suggesting, for years, that bleaching impacts would increase in frequency and magnitude as the oceans warm,” said Jennifer Koss, director of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program.

The founcdation stressed that the global coral bleaching event requires a global action.


“One of the best ways to assess the impact of a bleaching event is to track changes to a reef over time,” said Alexandra Dempsey, CEO of the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. “Reliable baseline data on the state of the reef—such as the data on coral cover, fish biomass, and species diversity we collected on the Foundation’s Global Reef Expedition—can help scientists assess the impact of the bleaching event and understand how the health of a reef changes over time.”

“As the Living Oceans Foundation continues to work on coral reefs, particularly in the South Pacific, we have been called upon by NOAA to report on active bleaching events we have witnessed in the field,” Dempsey added.


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