Coral bleaching and a proposed monitoring program for Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
Coral bleaching occurs when corals expel their symbiotic algae, called zooxanthellae, or when zooxanthellae expel their photosynthetic pigments during times of high environmental stress. The exact reason why corals bleach has not yet been determined, but it is theorized that a combination of multiple environmental stress factors is the cause. It is also possible that coral bleaching serves as an adaptive mechanism by allowing different types of zooxanthellae, which may be more stress-resistant than the original zooxanthellae, to colonize the coral. Temperature, salinity, over-sedimentation, anoxia, presence of pollutants, and high amounts of UV irradiation are all factors thought to contribute to bleaching. Extensive coral bleaching research has been conducted since the mass bleaching event of 1998, but there is no data on the frequency of coral bleaching on Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles. This paper proposes a monitoring program that may be implemented to collect coral bleaching and recovery data on Bonaire’s reefs.