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Coral Reefs

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Coral Bleaching

Increasing ocean acidification and thermal stress affect our coral reefs and lead to coral bleaching.

The following video shows a dramatic footage of mass coral bleaching near Tobago, brought to our attention by CARIBSAVE, a partnership between the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the University of Oxford.

The bleaching was caused by a prolonged period of high sea-surface-temperatures (SST), which affected many areas in the Caribbean.

Scientific studies, e.g. Reefs at Risk Revisited, project the frequency of future coral reef bleaching events to increase dramatically, accompanying an ongoing warming of the sea.

Source: Burke,L., Reytar, K. , Spalding, M. Perry, A., 2011: Reefs at Risk Revisited. World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C

Health of the Reefs

Reef health is not only affected by climate change but also by plenty of other threats like over-fishing, coastal development, inland clearing and agriculture, oil exploration and drilling and invasive lionfish.

Find details on the - already mostly poor - health of the Mesoamerican Reef and the  threats to it also in the 2010 Report Card for the Mesoamerican Reef - An Evaluation of Ecosystem Health.

Mesoamerican Coral Reef Watch Program

The Mesoamerican Coral Reef Watch Program is an early warning system regarding the status of coral reefs and identifies changes that occur, including bleaching. Tour guides and diving instructors can participate as volunteers in the program.

In Belize, contact Ecomar to participate in the Coral Watch program.

Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS)

Strong Climate Change Early Warning Systems improve climate risk planning, management and action and are necessary to address the impacts of Climate Change, especially coral bleaching. To this end, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, through a collaboration with NOAA, is working to establish an integrated regional network of climate and biological monitoring stations to strengthen the region’s early warning mechanism.

Under the European Union Global Climate Change Alliance (EU-GCCA) Caribbean Support Project, the CCCCC has procured and installed five Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) stations at a cost of approximately US$800, 000 in Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and the Dominican Republic (2 stations). CREWS stations have also been installed in Jamaica, Belize and elsewhere in the Caribbean using non-EU funding, such as from AUSAID,  as part of the wider network.

The new CREWS stations became part of the NOAA's Integrated Coral Observing Network (ICON) of climate and biological monitoring stations that collect data on climate, marine and biological parameters for use by scientists to conduct research into the health of coral reefs in a changing and variable climate. Click here to see the coverage of the network in the Caribbean.

To learn more about this tool, click here.


Please find related information in our resource centre here.


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