BETTER LIVING THROUGH PHYSICS: MAPPING REEF RESILIENCE WITH SITE-SPECIFIC ECOLOGICAL FORECASTS FOR CORAL THERMAL STRESS
Ocean physics can be used to improve the understanding of environmental impacts on coral reefs, informing decisions to conserve reefs and to sustain coastal economies by preserving reef ecosystem services. Thermal stress is an ongoing physical threat to reefs, as witnessed by widespread bleaching-related mortality in 2014 and 2015. Reefs are also under pressure from other physical and biogeochemical stressors such as land-based pollution, ocean acidification, reduced circulation, and storm damage. Attempts to moderate the combined effects of these stressors presents a challenging management scenario. Spatially explicit science - accounting for key local features - can help to focus monitoring, management, and research for informed decision making. The authors use expert systems to alert managers to ecological impacts on reefs and fisheries. "Ecoforecasts" rely on a simple ocean physics model at <100 m resolution, integrating seafloor maps with coarser-resolution data for weather, oceanography, and turbidity. Climate, weather, and human activity drive many stressors; but at the scale of reefs, oceanography dominates variability in sea temperature, water mixing and circulation. Seafloor depth and slope prove key in predicting both sea temperature extremes and cross-reef water exchange, and remotely sensed turbidity can improve temperature and benthic light predictions. Results show how data integration, artificial intelligence, and a simple model can improve assessment and prediction of relative resilience between reef sites within a jurisdiction.
Gramer, L. J., University of Miami CIMAS, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hendee, J. C., NOAA-AOML, USA, email@example.com
Thompson, N. B., Florida Institute of Oceanography, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fletcher, P., University of Florida - Florida Sea Grant College Program, USA, email@example.com
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