Local conditions magnify coral loss after marine heatwaves

Mary K. Donovan, Deron E. Burkepile, Chelsey Kratochwill, Tom Shlesinger, Shannon Sully, Thomas A. Oliver, Gregor Hodgson, Jan Freiwald, Robert van Woesik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Climate change threatens coral reefs by causing heat stress events that lead to widespread coral bleaching and mortality. Given the global nature of these mass coral mortality events, recent studies argue that mitigating climate change is the only path to conserve coral reefs. Using a global analysis of 223 sites, we show that local stressors act synergistically with climate change to kill corals. Local factors such as high abundance of macroalgae or urchins magnified coral loss in the year after bleaching. Notably, the combined effects of increasing heat stress and macroalgae intensified coral loss. Our results offer an optimistic premise that effective local management, alongside global efforts to mitigate climate change, can help coral reefs survive the Anthropocene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberabd9464
JournalScience
Volume372
Issue number6545
DOIs
StatePublished - May 28 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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