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Warming ocean waters in Pacific Ocean turn coral gardens into a graveyard

June 2, 2016
Jarvis Island healthy coral from April 2015 & bleached coral from November 2015

New findings show that approximately 95 percent of the coral colonies at Jarvis Island in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument have died following a massive coral bleaching event. Intense El Niño causes waters to become extremely warm, resulting in coral bleaching.

A survey conducted by scientists from NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and partners shows that coral colonies that looked healthy and vibrant a year ago are now dead and dying, due to long periods of being bathed in warmer than normal waters.

Scientists found a bit of good news–they sighted for the first time ever a colony of coral species (Acropora retusa) at Jarvis Island that is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Also, a few of the more resilient corals also survived the El Niño event.

Scientists in this joint effort between NOAA Fisheries, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Rutgers University are hopeful that some of the living corals will recover due to the remote location, gradually cooling waters and the biological richness of the area.