Initial assessment of a new coral bleaching event at Tongareva Atoll in the Northern Cook Islands

Climate change mitigation Oceans Coral bleaching Marine management Climate change Carbon emissions Cook Islands

The present study contributes to Hakono Hararanga’s GEF SGP Project: Conserving Biodiversity of Tongareva Atoll through Training, Revegetation, & Waste Management and in particular to Specific Objective 5.2: Biological surveys, endangered species, threats and impacts ~ with a focus on Ecosystem Integrity. Also to SDG 14 ‘Life below water’ and to Honu Kuki Airani’s ongoing research and conservation efforts.

On Boxing Day 2018 the author discovered coral bleaching on the southwestern reef top: those corals had been in visibly good condition 13 days earlier. The rest of this manuscript details the first surveys around the atoll. Rapid coral health assessments were done to understand the impact extent, and measure water temperature. Every site checked was in the early stages of bleaching: some coral species show resilience, but it seems likely we are heading for another ecosystem tragedy. Human activities directly cause climate change and global warming. Science is crystal clear, and domestic and international law requires us to adhere to the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

This report covers the first assessment of the new coral bleaching event at Tongareva Atoll in January 2019 and explores what can be done to mitigate the risks of climate change for Tongareva.


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