Lucas, Caroline Costa, Lima, Italo Cesar, Garcia, Tatiane Martins, Tavares, Tallita Cruz Lopes, Carneiro, Pedro Bastos Macedo, Teixeira, Carlos Eduardo Peres, Bejarano, Sonia ORCID:, Rossi, Sergio and Soares, Marcelo O. ORCID: (2023) Turbidity buffers coral bleaching under extreme wind and rainfall conditions. Marine Environmental Research, 192 . p. 106215. DOI

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Coral reefs in turbid waters have been hypothesized to be a refuge from climate change. These naturally occurring communities were brought into the spotlight because some of their species exhibited record levels of resistance to marine heatwaves (MHWs) by disturbance-tolerant corals. However, long-term monitoring data on the drivers of coral bleaching in these extreme reef habitats are scarce. Here, we describe the population structure and bleaching rates of a widespread and resilient coral (Siderastrea stellata). We examine the links between environmental factors, namely, rainfall, wind speed, turbidity, solar irradiance, sea surface temperature, MHWs, and coral bleaching status under the worst recorded drought cycle in the Tropical South Atlantic (2013–2015). We examined 2880 colonies, most of which (∼93%) fit in the size group of 2–10 cm, with a small number (∼1%) of larger and older colonies (>20 cm). The results indicated the absence of MHWs and normal sea surface temperature variations (between 26.6 °C and 29.3 °C), however, we detected an extreme rainfall deficit (30–40% less annual volume precipitation). In general, a high proportion (44–84%) of bleached colonies was found throughout the months when turbidity decreased. Siderastrea is the only reef-building coral that comprises this seascape with encrusting and low-relief colonies. During drought periods, cloudiness is reduced, turbidity and wind speed are reduced, and solar irradiance increase, driving coral bleaching in turbid reefs. However, episodic rainfall and higher wind speeds increase turbidity and decrease coral bleaching. Our hypothesis is that turbidity decreases during drought periods which increases bleaching risk to corals even without thermal stress. Our results suggest that turbidity may have related to wind and rainfall to provoke the coral bleaching phenomenon.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA3
Research affiliation: Ecology > Reef Systems
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
ISSN: 01411136
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2023 13:10
Last Modified: 05 Dec 2023 13:10

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