2005 Caribbean Basin Bleaching Event

A major coral bleaching event occurred in the Caribbean in mid- to late-2005, and may result in significant coral death in much of the region. Anomalously warm water centered around the northern Antilles near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico expanded southward (see Figure 1, below). Thermal stress reached Degree Heating Week (DHW) values of over 15 at some locations. Comparison with the previous 20 years of satellite data confirm that thermal stress from this event was greater than the previous 20 years combined.

Data from the NOAA Coral Reef Watch Satellite Bleaching Alert monitoring system first warned of possible bleaching conditions in the Florida Keys in late August and alerts were issued for both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands starting in early October. Corresponding with these alerts, reports have come in from much of the Caribbean and western North Atlantic (Figure 2 and table, below). Many of the reports below are qualitative, but quantitative bleaching data being analyzed now show that this is clearly an important, widespread event. Reports from ReefBase, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, and direct contributions to NOAA Coral Reef Watch are being compiled to pull together a comprehensive report on this event.

This effort is supported by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and the US Coral Reef Task Force.


GCRMN Report on 2005 Hurricanes and Bleaching

In January 2008, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and its partners released a book called Status of Caribbean Reefs after Bleaching and Hurricanes 2005. This report synthesizes observations of coral bleaching and mortality from more than 70 coral reef workers and volunteer divers to summarize the current status of reefs in the Wider Caribbean. More importantly, the book seeks to provide information to coral reef managers and decision makers to aid in the search for solutions to arrest the coral reef decline.

Download a PDF of the entire report (4.2MB)
The US federal government's coordinated response

Several agencies have come together to coordinate the federal response to this bleaching event: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). See the items below for details.

NEW Call for Data - GCRMN Special Report on "STATUS OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS AFTER BLEACHING AND HURRICANES IN 2005 AND 2006"(PDF)

NEW Download the Data Request spreadsheet for the GCRMN Special Report (XLS)

NEW ITMEMS-3 Workshop, Cozumel, Mexico, "2005 Caribbean Bleaching Event," 15 Oct 2006

NOAA/TNC Workshop, St. Croix, USVI, "Satellite Tools and Bleaching Response," 23-25 Jan 2006
US Federal response to the 2005 Caribbean bleaching event, 2 May 2006 (PDF)
USGS/NPS response to coral bleaching in US Virgin Islands National Parks (PDF)
NOAA's response to the 2005 Caribbean bleaching event, 19 Apr 2006 (PDF)
Meeting notes on NOAA's coordinated response strategy, 16 Nov 2005 (PDF)
Meeting notes on NOAA's coordinated response strategy, 23 Nov 2005 (PDF)
US Coral Reef Task Force resolution, 7 Nov 2005 (PDF)
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program's draft response, 4 Nov 2005 (PDF)

Press coverage

We are pleased to note that this event has led to significant press coverage. A few representative articles are listed below. Note that listing here does not constitute endorsement of the external site; these links are for information only.

26 Sep 2006, AP: Scientists Issue Strongest Coral Warning
23 Aug 2006, AP: Scientists Issue Second Coral Warning Due to High Caribbean Sea Temperatures
14 Aug 2006, BBC World: Coral Reef Report
31 Jul 2006, NOAA Magazine: CORALS ARE “IN HOT WATER”: HOW NOAA SATELLITES ARE HELPING
Mark Trail icon 09 Jul 2006, Mark Trail comic strip features the bleaching event and NOAA's data
24 Apr 2006, AP: Scientists Say Rising Temperatures Threaten Repeat of Caribbean Coral Death
16 Apr 2006, NBC Nightly News: Global warming damages coral reefs
06 Apr 2006, National Geographic News: Warming, disease causing major Caribbean reef die-off
04 Apr 2006, NY Times: Corals take double punch in Caribbean (registration required)
01 Apr 2006, Cox News Service: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita blunt bleaching of Florida Keys coral reefs
31 Mar 2006, AP: Caribbean coral suffers record bleaching, death
14 Mar 2006, NPR: Scientists warn of coral bleaching in Caribbean
03 Feb 2006, NOAA: NOAA ANNOUNCES EXPANDED CORAL WARNING SYSTEM
26 Jan 2006, Virgin Islands Daily News: Scientists discover new coral killer in V.I. waters
25 Jan 2006, Virgin Islands Daily News: NOAA scientist: 2005 coral bleaching unprecedented
24 Jan 2006, Virgin Islands Daily News: Scientist details NOAA's efforts to combat coral bleaching
16 Dec 2005, NOAA: NASA JOINS INTERAGENCY RESPONSE TO 'DEVASTATING' CORAL BLEACHING
03 Nov 2005, AP: Caribbean reefs bleached by warm water
24 Oct 2005, NOAA: MAJOR CORAL BLEACHING EVENT EXPANDS ACROSS CARIBBEAN
26 Sep 2005, Reuters: Caribbean corals hit by warm, storm-spawing seas


Bleaching Reports:

NEW Call for Data - Submit a report for the GCRMN Special Report:
Download the PDF file here.

Submit a report to Coral Reef Watch:
Download the Excel file here. (XLS)

NOTE: You may need to right-click the link to save the spreadsheet. Instructions are given on the first page of the spreadsheet.

Please fill out your information and e-mail it to coralreefwatch@noaa.gov.
Submit a bleaching report to ReefBase

Search for bleaching observations in ReefBase
Visit the Coral-List listserve archives
National Park Service, St. John, US Virgin Islands
NOAA CCMA, Buck Island, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
Reef Relief, Bahamas and Key West
University of Miami, Florida Keys (PDF)
Buccoo Reef Trust, Tobago (PDF)

2005 Caribbean Degree Heating Weeks 2005 Caribbean Bleaching Reports
Figure 1: NOAA Coral Reef Watch composite of maximum Degree Heating Weeks thermal stress accumulations for 2005. Each DHW represents one week of temperatures 1ºC above the maximum monthly mean. Accumulated over three months, DHWs above four are virtually always accompanied by bleaching, whereas levels above eight are accompanied by widespread bleaching, coral mortality, and long-term reef impacts.
Click on image to see a full-sized version.
Click here to view DHW animation (June-Oct: 241KB gif)
Figure 2: Map of preliminary bleaching reports with qualitative severity as reported by field observers (September - November, 2005).

Location Severity Percent Affected
BahamasLow to High75
BelizeMedium20-80
British Virgin IslandsHigh50-90
ColombiaLow1-20
CubaLow to High8-75
JamaicaMedium20-80
MexicoMedium40
PanamaMedium70
Trinidad and TobagoHigh70-90
US FloridaLow to High3-100
US Puerto RicoMedium to High50-100
US TexasMedium35-100
US Virgin IslandsHigh50-90
Table 1: Preliminary bleaching report data for September - November 2005, complied from ReefBase, Coral List, and other sources (as of 16 November, 2005).

(Agenda PDF)
Caribbean Bleaching and Disease Workshop: 2005 Event Response and Assessment
Cozumel, Mexico, 15 Oct 2006


Coral Reef Watch conducted a half-day workshop at the 3rd International Tropical Marine Ecosystems Management Symposium (
ITMEMS3), in partnership with the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), the Global Coral Reef Management Network (GCRMN), and IM Systems Group, Inc (IMSG). The workshop was attended by over 60 coral reef researchers and MPA resource managers. Participants reported on the 2005 Caribbean Bleaching Event, and on coral diseases in the Caribbean. Discussions included (1) next steps in the response and assessment effort for future events in the Caribbean, and (2) a potential series of multi-authored papers and reports by NOAA and GCRMN. Participants were encouraged to submit their data for the upcoming GCRMN Special Report (PDF).

Final agenda and list of participants (PDF)
Satellite Tools and Bleaching Response Workshop: Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, 23-25 Jan 2006


NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program and Coral Reef Watch co-hosted a three-day workshop with The Nature Conservancy, for local marine reserve managers and coral reef researchers. The first half introduced CRW’s satellite data products, helping reef managers to incorporate satellite remote sensing tools into their management protocols. The second half focused on coordinating the ongoing regional response to the 2005 bleaching event. Local managers and researchers reported results from their recent monitoring, forming a more complete picture of the bleaching extent and severity, then discussed data gaps and ongoing coordination.

Final agenda (PDF)
Final list of participants (Excel)
Partners:
AGRRA: Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment
AMLC: The Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean
CARICOMP: Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity Program
GCRMN: Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network
CoralWatch
MBRS: Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems Project
TNC: The Nature Conservancy
ReefBase
Reef Check
USGS Caribbean Field Station



For more information regarding ongoing research on coral bleaching in ORAD, contact us