West Australian corals including Symphyllia wilsoni, Scolymia australis, fancy chalice corals and a whole suite of fancy zoanthids are the latest crop of hot reef aquarium corals from the land down under. However, recent satellite observation suggest the West Australian corals are about to experience a severe natural heat bath which is bad for biology.
Normally the coral reefs of West Australia run much cooler temperatures due to their oceanography but beginning in mid April, Climate Shifts reported that bleaching of West Australian corals had been documented for the first time. Since then the heat bubble has not left Aussie’s West Side reefs and the outlook doesn’t look too good. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, an accomplished coral reef ecologist and researcher who is at the helm of Climate Shifts had this prediction for West Australian reefs:
We will see large-scale mortality of reef-building corals (30% or more) and many other organisms on reefs from Exmouth to Shark Bay along the West Australian coastline (300 km or more). This will occur over the next 1-3 months. Reefs in this region will take more than 10 years to recover.
Granted, Dr. Hoegh-Guldberg has usually fallen on the pessimistic side of the scale when it comes to extrapolating the future of corals as it relates to climate but he still knows what he’s talking about. So if in the next few months corals from West Australia start looking a little pale or becoming scarce, at least we will know why. With this level of heat stress there is a near certainty of widespread coral bleaching but we are really hopeful that some as-of-yet unforeseen biology or oceanography helps to mitigate the effects of hot waters in West Australia.