Coral Bleaching

Mass coral bleaching events, driven by unusually warm sea temperatures, have now affected every major coral reef ecosystem on the planet. Indonesia was last hit by mass bleaching event in 1997-1998, in which mortality reached up to 90% in some places [1]. The effects of coral bleaching are pervasive and potentially devastating to ecosystems and the people who depend upon them. With predced increased frequency and severity of bleaching as temperatures continue to warm under a global regime of climate change, and stresses imposed by humans, coral reefs are under unprecedented pressure. Understanding the effects and implications of coral bleaching, and identifying strategies to reduce stress and mitigate impacts, are urgent challenges for the conservation and management of coral reefs in Indonesia and worldwide.

Recognizing and responding to these threat requires establish a national system of marine protected areas (MPAs) to safeguard Indonesia`s marine biodiversity and protect local livelihoods. It is critical to understand the impacts of climate change in order to most effectively design MPAs in areas which are potentially most resistant and resilient to these impacts.

The Wildlife Conservation Society is at the forefront of understanding the responses of coral reefs to climate change with pioneering scientific work in the Western Indian Ocean and Caribbean. The development of an Asian- Pacific focus is fundamental to advancing the scientific knowledge of climate change impacts in developing tropical countries and marine ecosystems of economic and cultural value to coastal communities. WCS is working to strengthen the capacity of management authorities to respond to climate change impacts based on a thorough understanding of science, its implications for management interventions and future development of marine protected area networks and conservation strategies in Indonesia. WCS will focus on the following critical steps to improve Indonesia capacity to deal with climate change impacts on coral reefs.

Important Next Steps

  1. Reduce local stressors to increase the chance corals can survive the bleaching event;
  2. Create MPAs that can provide areas for new coral recruits;
  3. Protect the conditions required for recovery, particularly good water quality and strong herbivory;
  4. Support the human communities that depend on marine environments, such as fishers and tourism operators.

1. Azhar, I., Bachtiar, I., Bryce, C., Harborne A., Hizbul Haq, T., Hoeksema, B., Lalamangkit, O., Lilley, G., Llewellyn, G., Suharsono, Yempita., The 1997-1998 Mass Bleaching Event Around the World, AIMS web site: