The largest global coral-bleaching event ever documented struck the world’s oceans in 2014 and lasted until 2017. The onset of this abnormal whitening condition spawned widespread gloom-and-doom news reports about its calamitous effect on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and more general predictions of coral reef extinction by 2050.
But a new 10-year study from Palmyra Atoll in the remote central Pacific Ocean shows that reefs outside the reach of local human impacts can recover from bleaching.
“One year after each bleaching event, we did see signs of coral decline at some of the sites, but within two years this was restored,” said Adi Khen, a Scripps Oceanography PhD candidate and lead author. The research team of current and former members in marine ecologist Jennifer E. Smith’s laboratory saw only a small net change in the reef’s coral and algae populations after a decade. Khen, Smith and four co-authors published their results in the journal Coral Reefs.
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