Australia’s remote Kimberley region harbors coral populations that are extremely stress-tolerant, and therefore serves as an ideal natural laboratory to study the mechanisms and limits of coral thermal tolerance. I conducted a heat stress experiment at the Kimberley Marine Research Station at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm which showed that extreme temperature fluctuations (up to 7°C daily) resulted in increased heat stress resistance but that Kimberley corals were nevertheless not immune to bleaching.
These findings were ultimately confirmed by the first large-scale bleaching event in this region in 2016. Colleagues and I conducted extensive in situ monitoring prior, during and after the bleaching event. Furthermore, I will conduct biogeochemical and genetic analyses to study why some corals were more resistant to bleaching than others, and why some recovered whereas others died.
Photo credit: Chris Cornwall.