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Coral bleaching due to cold stress on a central Red Sea reef flat

Citation

Rich, Walter; Carvalho, Susana; Berumen, Michael (2022), Coral bleaching due to cold stress on a central Red Sea reef flat, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.00000006g

Abstract

Ocean warming is leading to more frequent coral bleaching events. However, cold stress can also induce bleaching in corals. Here, we report observations of a boreal winter bleaching event in Jan 2020 in the central Red Sea, mainly within a population of the branching coral Stylophora pistillata on an offshore reef flat. Sea surface temperatures rarely fall below 24°C in this region, but data loggers deployed on several nearby reef flats recorded overnight seawater temperatures as low as 18°C just three days before the observations. The low temperatures coincided with an extremely low tide and cool air temperatures, likely resulting in the aerial exposure of the corals during the nighttime low tide event. The risk of aerial exposure is rare in winter months, as the Red Sea exhibits seasonal fluctuations in sea level with winter values typically 0.3-0.4m higher than in summer. These observations are notable for a region typically characterized as a high-temperature sea, and highlight the need for long-term monitoring programs as this rare event may have gone unnoticed.

Methods

Temperature data was collected with loggers deployed in situ as well as publically-available satellite data from ERA5. Tidal data was collected with an ADCP (Acoustic doppler current profiler) deployed in situ and a tide gauge deployed in the KAUST harbor.

Funding

KAUST