Comparing bleaching and mortality responses of hard corals between southern Kenya and the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Mar Pollut Bull. 2004 Feb;48(3-4):327-35. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2003.08.024.


We compared the bleaching and mortality response (BMI) of 19 common scleractinian corals to an anomalous warm-water event in 1998 to determine the degree of variation between depths, sites, and regions. Mombasa corals experienced a greater temperature anomaly than those on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) sites and this was reflected in the greater BMI response of most taxa. Comparing coral taxa in different sites at the same depth produced high correlation coefficients in the bleaching response in Kenya at 2 m (r=0.86) and GBR at 6 m depth sites (r=0.80) but less in the GBR for shallow 2 m sites (r=0.49). The pattern of taxa susceptibility was remarkably consistent between the regions. Coral taxa explained 52% of the variation in the response of colonies to bleaching between these two regions (Kenya BMI=0.90 GBR BMI+26; F(1,19) - 18.3; p < 0.001; r2 = 0.52). Stylophora and Pocillopora were consistently susceptible while Cyphastrea, Goniopora Galaxea and Pavona were resistant in both regions. Three taxa behaved differently between the two regions; Acropora, and branching Porites were both moderately affected on the GBR but were highly affected in Kenya while the opposite was true for Pavona. These results suggest that a colonies response to bleaching is phylogenetically constrained, emphasizing the importance of features of the host's physiology or morphology in determining the response to thermal stress.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / physiology*
  • Australia
  • Classification
  • Climate
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Kenya
  • Mortality
  • Pigmentation*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Temperature*