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Article

Severe Heat Stress Resulted in High Coral Mortality on Maldivian Reefs following the 2015–2016 El Niño Event

1
CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Castray Esplanade, Hobart, TAS 7000, Australia
2
Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
3
College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
4
CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform, Land & Water, Black Mountain, ACT 2601, Australia
5
School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
6
Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Institute of Ocean Sciences, Sidney, BC V8L 4B2, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Rupert Ormond
Oceans 2021, 2(1), 233-245; https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans2010014
Received: 28 October 2020 / Revised: 16 February 2021 / Accepted: 22 February 2021 / Published: 3 March 2021
Coral cover worldwide has been declining due to heat stress caused by climate change. Here we report the impacts of the 2015–2016 El Niño mass coral bleaching event on the coral cover of reefs located on central and northern atolls of the Maldives. We surveyed six reef sites in the Alifu Alifu (Ari) and Baa (South Maalhosmadulu) Atolls using replicate 20 m benthic photo transects at two depths per reef site. Live and recently dead coral cover identified from images differed between reef sites and depth. Recently dead corals on average made up 33% of the coral assemblage at shallow sites and 24% at deep sites. This mortality was significantly lower in massive corals than in branching corals, reaching an average of only 6% compared to 41%, respectively. The best predictors of live coral cover were depth and morphology, with a greater percentage of live coral at deep sites and in massive corals. The same predictors best described the prevalence of recently dead coral, but showed inverse trends to live coral. However, there was high variability among reef sites, which could be attributed to additional local stressors. Coral bleaching and resulting coral mortalities, such as the ones reported here, are of particular concern for small island nations like the Maldives, which are reliant on coral reefs. View Full-Text
Keywords: Maldives; Indian Ocean; El Niño; mass coral bleaching; coral mortality; benthic cover Maldives; Indian Ocean; El Niño; mass coral bleaching; coral mortality; benthic cover
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MDPI and ACS Style

Bessell-Browne, P.; Epstein, H.E.; Hall, N.; Buerger, P.; Berry, K. Severe Heat Stress Resulted in High Coral Mortality on Maldivian Reefs following the 2015–2016 El Niño Event. Oceans 2021, 2, 233-245. https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans2010014

AMA Style

Bessell-Browne P, Epstein HE, Hall N, Buerger P, Berry K. Severe Heat Stress Resulted in High Coral Mortality on Maldivian Reefs following the 2015–2016 El Niño Event. Oceans. 2021; 2(1):233-245. https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans2010014

Chicago/Turabian Style

Bessell-Browne, Pia, Hannah E. Epstein, Nora Hall, Patrick Buerger, and Kathryn Berry. 2021. "Severe Heat Stress Resulted in High Coral Mortality on Maldivian Reefs following the 2015–2016 El Niño Event" Oceans 2, no. 1: 233-245. https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans2010014

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