In a hopeful sign amid a changing climate, a decade-long study at the Palmyra Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean revealed that coral reefs can recover from the perils of bleaching as long as they’re left alone.
Scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography found that the Palmyra corals showed major restoration two years following a severe bleaching event.
From 2009 to 2018, Scripps scientists collected data via scuba diving in Palmyra Atoll, an environmentally-protected island in the remote central Pacific Ocean populated only by visiting researchers.
More than 1,500 underwater images of the reefs taken over that time period were analyzed by researchers to measure abundance of life over space and time.
Palmyra’s low-stress environment and protected waters likely allowed the reefs to recover quicker than areas affected by human activity. This long-term research can ideally help inform future management.
Adi Khen, a Scripps Oceanography PhD candidate and lead author of the study, said:
“This is a testament to the resilience of Palmyra’s reefs in the context of climate change and demonstrates the capacity for recovery in the absence of local stressors. Because we have this long-term time series, we’re able to see perspectives from before and after disturbances.”
Check out the full study here.