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What happened to Big Mama? Changes in size class distribution of mounding Porites on Maui reefs following the 2015 thermal bleaching event

  • Author(s): Martinelli, Maurizio
  • et al.
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Abstract

Coral reefs worldwide are threatened by thermally induced bleaching. In 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared the third recorded global thermal bleaching event during which Hawaiian coral reefs were severely impacted. In order to understand how Hawaiian reefs responded to this event, data were examined from benthic imagery from three sites on leeward Maui that represent a gradient of management. Data were extracted from composite 100m2 photomosaic images of reef benthos, which were constructed for July 2014 (prior to bleaching) and June 2016 (following bleaching). In each photomosaic, colonies of mounding Porites (P. lobata, P. evermanni, and P. lutea) were individually outlined and numbered in order to compare colony size class distribution before and after the 2015 bleaching event. Overall, the mounding Porites communities of leeward Maui reefs experienced a shift towards smaller size classes from 2014 to 2016. Changes in size, quantified in both absolute and percent changes, were not correlated with management regimes. These data suggest that management of local stressors may not be sufficient to mitigate the immediate effects of thermal bleaching events on coral reefs.

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This item is under embargo until March 1, 2021.