The image above shows healthy fire coral compared with bleached coral—images taken this week in Bermuda by Jayne Jenkins of the Catlin Seaview Survey. The Catlin Seaview Survey is a pioneering scientific expedition revealing the state of the world’s coral reefs; it recently announced the launch of the Catlin Global Reef Record.
The Catlin Global Reef Record is a first-of-its-kind global database and online standardized research tool relating to major coral reef ecosystems. The Catlin Global Reef Record will enable scientists around the world to collaborate on understanding changes to coral reefs and related marine environments as a result of over-exploitation, pollution and climate change. It is estimated that 500 million people globally depend on coral reefs for food and income and between one third and one half of corals around the world have been lost in the last 50 years.
The launch of such a database is prescient in that it falls just before the release of the first working group report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) 5th Assessment Report. This important document will report the scientific consensus on the physical and chemical changes of oceans associated with the rise of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Studies all over the world are finding that oceans are storing the excess heat associated with human caused climate change and are becoming more acidic – damaging marine life and changing ecosystems such as coral reefs.
Revealing the Reefs: Freely available to the scientific community and public at large, the Catlin Global Reef Record features hundreds of thousands of 360-degree panoramic images along with numerous other additional scientific data sets. The Catlin Seaview Survey team collected the groundbreaking visuals and data for the Catlin Global Reef Record during expeditions of the Great Barrier Reef, coral reefs across the Caribbean and its most recent expedition in Bermuda, which launched on September 18.
[. . .] Bermuda: A Sentinel of Climate Change and its Impact in the Atlantic: Corals are considered the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to impacts of climate change and ocean acidification. While Bermuda’s reefs are proving to be resilient to change, conditions in the Atlantic are changing rapidly, which exemplifies the need for the Catlin Global Reef Record to establish important baselines in partnership with the scientists of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) and other local scientific partners.
The Catlin Seaview Survey kicked off its latest expedition on September 18 and is currently surveying the shallow and deep reefs around Bermuda. Among the scientific findings, the team has found that reefs 40 to 60 feet below the surface are currently undergoing a small amount of coral bleaching – confirming an alert originally announced by NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch (CRW) Satellite Bleaching Alert (SBA) system. The area is under a Level 1 alert, which indicates that high water temperatures have been sustained for more than four weeks, causing algae growing inside the corals to become toxic. Some areas close by are in Level 2 alert, which means mortality is likely. Scientists from the project will be testing how effective the SVII camera and image recognition procedures are at detecting and measuring the amount of bleaching on Bermuda’s reef systems.
“This could represent a powerful technique for rapidly responding to stress events such as mass coral bleaching and mortality,” said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. “Enabling rapid yet highly accurate techniques such as these will almost certainly improve our ability to understand and respond to the threats posed by warming seas.”
See more on Catlin Global Reef Record at www.globalreefrecord.org