Woesik, R., Houk, P., Isechal, A.L., Idechong, J.W., Victor, S., & Golbuu, Y. (2012) Climate-change refugia in the sheltered bays of Palau: analogs of future reefs. Ecology and evolution, 2, 2474–2484.
This study sets out to describe the effects of location on the degree of coral bleaching from thermal stress. They add the factor of taxonomy to determine which clades of coral are the most affected by this change. The scientists use this information to recommend where we should focus conservation efforts spatially in the face of climate change.
Scientists used still pictures from video footage taken before and after a thermal stress event in 2010 to determine the degree of coral bleaching in Palauan reefs caused by the change in temperature. They recorded patterns in 35 genera of coral and three types of reef areas: bays, patch reefs, and outer reefs, and used a satellite to compare their respective geographical temperature.
Populations of the coral genus Pocillopora were the most affected by thermal stress, followed by Psammocora and Seriatopora. The warmest reefs experienced the least amount of temperature-derived damage. Therefore, the bay reefs were described as a possible refuge for coral during the event of thermal stress.
Significance for Palau:
Although the Palauan thermal stress event of 2010 serves as a microcosm of global climate change, the results apply directly to the health of Palauan coral reefs. This study tells us that the bay reefs of Palau should be the healthiest compared to any other type of Palauan reef. Therefore, Palauan bay reefs could be useful for the salvation of coral clades such as Pocillopora, which suffer greater consequences of thermal stress in out in patch and outer reefs. Additionally, it is possible that more diversity can be observed in these regions, which is helpful to understand for further research in Palau and even ecotourism.