Some western Pacific corals seem to be weathering global warming. Despite a warming ocean, reefs off Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia suffered relatively little bleaching in the past 25 years, new research suggests.
Bleaching occurs when symbiotic algae living inside corals die, robbing the reefs of nutrients, color, and life. Seawater temperatures just a degree above normal can spur bleaching.
A team led by Joan Kleypas of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., tracked changes in tropical-ocean temperatures and instances of notable coral bleaching around the world. The already balmy waters of the western Pacific warm pool (WPWP)—a swath the size of Australia—have heated little since 1950, and the corals living there have stayed healthy, the team reports in the Feb. 9 Geophysical Research Letters.
Even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels climb, the reefs in the slow-warming waters of WPWP might continue to escape