Coral bleaching is the corals’ loss of their symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae), which give them their color. Bleaching is a natural event that occurs to some extent annually in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS). Records show that coral bleaching has been occurring for many years in the Florida Keys and also indicate that the frequency and severity of these events has steadily increased since the 1980s. Large-scale mass coral bleaching events are driven by unusually warm sea temperatures. The effects of these mass events are potentially devastating to ecosystems and the people who depend on them.

Mote created the Florida Keys Coral Bleaching Early Warning Network, or BleachWatch, program and modeled it on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's “BleachWatch” program. It was developed with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS). Through BleachWatch, we routinely review existing NOAA monitoring stations and satellite imagery analysis to track changes in environmental conditions within the Florida Keys region.

We also train volunteers as BleachWatch Observers who help us collect field observations and monitor for signs of coral bleaching. Mote gathers and consolidates the existing NOAA analyses, combines that data with the volunteers’ field observations and develops a current conditions report, published here during summer months when bleaching is most likely to occur.

For more information about BleachWatch or the current conditions reports, please contact Cory Walter, BleachWatch Coordinator, at Mote Marine Laboratory: (305) 745-2729, ext. 301.

Funding for BleachWatch has been provided by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
Funding for BleachWatch has been provided by the Protect Our Reefs Program

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