Remote sensing of coral bleaching using temperature and light: Progress towards an operational algorithm

William Skirving, Susana Enríquez, John D. Hedley, Sophie Dove, C. Mark Eakin, Robert A.B. Mason, Jacqueline L.De La Cour, Gang Liu, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Alan E. Strong, Peter J. Mumby, Roberto Iglesias-Prieto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch program developed and operates several global satellite products to monitor bleaching-level heat stress. While these products have a proven ability to predict the onset of most mass coral bleaching events, they occasionally miss events; inaccurately predict the severity of some mass coral bleaching events; or report false alarms. These products are based solely on temperature and yet coral bleaching is known to result from both temperature and light stress. This study presents a novel methodology (still under development), which combines temperature and light into a single measure of stress to predict the onset and severity of mass coral bleaching. We describe here the biological basis of the Light Stress Damage (LSD) algorithm under development. Then by using empirical relationships derived in separate experiments conducted in mesocosm facilities in the Mexican Caribbean we parameterize the LSD algorithm and demonstrate that it is able to describe three past bleaching events from the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). For this limited example, the LSD algorithm was able to better predict differences in the severity of the three past GBR bleaching events, quantifying the contribution of light to reduce or exacerbate the impact of heat stress. The new Light Stress Damage algorithm we present here is potentially a significant step forward in the evolution of satellite-based bleaching products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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