Satellites & Bleaching

What can be done?

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reef managers guide

Once people learn about NOAA Coral Reef Watch's coral bleaching monitoring and alert products, they commonly ask these questions: Is there any way to stop coral bleaching from happening? If reef managers know that bleaching is coming, is there anything they can do to help their corals survive?

NOAA, together with Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), worked with over 50 coral reef experts from 30 organizations to answer those very questions. The result is a handbook called A Reef Manager's Guide to Coral Bleaching, published in 2006. The guide offers practical advice to help local and regional managers reduce the impact of this threat to coral reef ecosystems.

Here are some examples of direct actions that reef managers can take:

  • restrict potentially stressful activities on the reef during and after the bleaching event, such as construction, diver access, and fishing
  • artificially shade or cool selected reefs to lessen the bleaching impacts
  • remove coral predators from the area to allow corals to recover
  • help new corals recruit to bleached reefs or transplant new corals after the bleaching event
  • enhance the overall health of the corals by reducing pollution, coastal runoff, and overfishing; a healthy reef ecosystem can recover more easily

In addition, there are some reef areas that may be naturally protected from conditions that cause bleaching or where corals have adapted to very warm conditions. It is especially critical to identify and protect these areas.

Researchers are still learning about how bleaching impacts coral reef ecosystems. An important action we can take right now is intensive monitoring leading up to, during, and after bleaching events, so that we can learn more about the causes and consequences of coral bleaching. This knowledge is critical for the long-term survival of the world's beautiful and valuable coral reefs.

To find out more about the Reef Manager's Guide and to download a copy, click here. (Managers also can learn more about the top 10 actions to take before, during and after a coral bleaching event here.)

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