Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals

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Hughes, Terry P
Kerry, James T
Alvarez-Noriega, Mariana
Alvarez-Romero, Jorge G
Anderson, Kristen D
Baird, Andrew H
Babcock, Russell C
Beger, Maria
Bellwood, David R
Berkelmans, Ray
Bridge, Tom C
Butler, Ian R
Byrne, Maria
Cantin, Neal E
Comeau, Steeve
Connolly, Sean R
Cumming, Graeme S
Dalton, Steven J
Diaz-Pulido, Guillermo
Eakin, C Mark
Figueira, Will F
Gilmour, James P
Harrison, Hugo B
Heron, Scott F
Hoey, Andrew S
Hobbs, Jean-Paul A
Hoogenboom, Mia O
Kennedy, Emma V
Kuo, Chao-yang
Lough, Janice M
Lowe, Ryan J
Liu, Gang
Cculloch, Malcolm TM
Malcolm, Hamish A
Mcwilliam, Michael J
Pandolfi, John M
Pears, Rachel J
Pratchett, Morgan S
Schoepf, Verena
Simpson, Tristan
Skirving, William J
Sommer, Brigitte
Torda, Gergely
Wachenfeld, David R
Willis, Bette L
Wilson, Shaun K
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2017
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Abstract

During 2015–2016, record temperatures triggered a pan-tropical episode of coral bleaching, the third global-scale event since mass bleaching was first documented in the 1980s. Here we examine how and why the severity of recurrent major bleaching events has varied at multiple scales, using aerial and underwater surveys of Australian reefs combined with satellite-derived sea surface temperatures. The distinctive geographic footprints of recurrent bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998, 2002 and 2016 were determined by the spatial pattern of sea temperatures in each year. Water quality and fishing pressure had minimal effect on the unprecedented bleaching in 2016, suggesting that local protection of reefs affords little or no resistance to extreme heat. Similarly, past exposure to bleaching in 1998 and 2002 did not lessen the severity of bleaching in 2016. Consequently, immediate global action to curb future warming is essential to secure a future for coral reefs.

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Nature
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543
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7645
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© 2017 Nature Publishing Group. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal website for access to the definitive, published version.
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Other environmental sciences not elsewhere classified
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