2016 Coral Bleaching Event

In 2015, we had advance warning from satellite data (NOAA Coral Reef Watch http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/bleachingoutlook_cfs/outlook_cfs.php ) that warm ocean temperatures over the coming summer would potentially cause a major, widespread coral bleaching event. In Western Australia, we met for a workshop at the end of November, 2015, to plan our approach to monitoring the bleaching event. Approximately 40 researchers from universities and government agencies attended, with research areas from the far north of Australia (Ashmore Reef) to south-west WA. We established that we have excellent research coverage of the WA coast, and the capability to detect and quantify bleaching on a broad scale, but covering such a large region, any additional observations of coral bleaching will also be very useful.

Since the meeting, we have been working on ways to best record the bleaching event so we can better understand how widespread and severe it is, and also document the potential for future recovery in our corals. We have had reports of coral bleaching beginning on the Kimberley coast & have begun aerial surveys, in collaboration with aerial patrols by the Australian Border Force and WA’s Department of Parks and Wildlife. An AIMS research team is on their way to Scott Reef and the Rowley Shoals to assess bleaching there.

Can you help? 

To assist with the recording and analysis of coral bleaching data, we have developed an app which anyone can access to report sightings of coral bleaching. The app will locate your observation on a map, record the amount of bleaching you saw, and you have the option to add additional information including photos, depth and what types of corals were worst affected.

We are now within the key time period where coral bleaching is most likely in WA waters; at this point any observations of coral bleaching are extremely valuable to us. Our app is available within the free “Arcgis Collector” app and will automatically upload bleaching observations to our database. There are two versions of the app, one for Aerial Surveys and the other for in-water observations.

Download WA Coral Bleaching App

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.esri.arcgis.collector&hl=en

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/collector-for-arcgis/id589674237?mt=8

Sign in details (first use only):

Username: AerialSurveyUser
Password: CoralReef02

Further instructions on using the app can be found in our user guide

Example photos of bleached corals below

Bleached coral with some algae beginning to grow on it

Partly bleached coral

Bleached soft coral

Some corals bleach more easily than others, so there might be a couple of bleached ones in amongst others that look healthy and normal.