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The College of Wooster

Publication Date

Fall 2023

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


Coral reefs are diverse marine ecosystems that exist in tropical ecosystems all over the world. They provide a myriad of ecological services that are vital for marine organism biodiversity and human coastal communities. A major threat to coral reefs is a rise in sea surface temperature that causes coral bleaching. The effect of a coral bleaching event in Nargana, Guna Yala will be investigated to examine how the health status of coral reef ecosystems are being impacted. To guide these efforts, the extent of coral bleaching will be measured along with whether sea surface temperature (SST), human concentration, and El Niño are accurate predictors of coral bleaching. Point count data of coral species bleaching and other sessile organisms were collected at five fringing reefs in Guna Yala to produce results related to bleaching percent, the effect of high human concentration and variance in species bleaching. Results revealed significantly more coral bleaching cover than healthy coral cover, more coral bleaching cover at reefs near a high human concentration, significant differences in coral species dominance between reefs near high and low human concentrations and significant differences in bleaching cover between coral species. These findings suggest that an active El Niño event in 2023, as well as anthropogenic climate change, are driving the extent of coral bleaching and changes in coral reef assemblage. It is also found that degree heating weeks (DHW) and length of bleached state are important predictors of severity of coral individual bleaching and mortality.


Climate | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Latin American Studies | Meteorology | Oceanography | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


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