Hostname: page-component-8448b6f56d-wq2xx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-20T04:45:17.668Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Extensive ‘Bleaching’ and Death of Reef Corals on the Pacific Coast of Panamá

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 August 2009

Peter W. Glynn
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, P.O. Box 2072, Balboa, Republic of Panamá.


Recent ‘bleaching’ and death of hermatypic (reef-building) corals has occurred extensively in Pacific Ocean waters of Panamá (Gulf of Chiriquí), near the Panamá-Costa Rica border. All hydrocorals (Millepora spp.) and scleractinian corals (5 genera) have been affected to some degree in the non-upwelling environment of Chiriquí. No other members of the macrobenthos showed signs of stress (lowered activities, morbidity) or reduced abundance. The affected area, including the mainland, nearshore and offshore islands, and adjacent waters, is about 10,000 km2. Further surveys in the Gulf of Chiriquí may reveal even more extensive mortality.

This disturbance began in the dry season (January–April 1983), during a period of clear skies, low rainfall, and minimal river drainage. I first observed large, ‘bleached’ coral patches (up to 100 m2 in area) in mid-March, and observations by others indicate that coral ‘bleaching’ occurred in February and possibly as early as mid-January. Normal and ‘bleached’ corals observed in mid-March were ‘bleached’ and dead, respectively, by the end of April, suggesting that the disturbance is protracted. By the end of the dry season, 80 to 95% of all corals in the affected areas were severely ‘bleached’ or dead.

Main Papers
Copyright © Foundation for Environmental Conservation 1983

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Dana, T.F. (1975). Development of contemporary eastern Pacific coral reefs. Mar. Biol., 33, pp. 355–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Daniel, W.W. (1978). Applied Nonparametric Statistics. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, Massachusetts, USA: 510 pp., illustr.Google Scholar
Glynn, P.W. (1972). Observations on the ecology of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Panama. Pp. 1330 in The Panamic Biota: Some Observations Prior to a Sea-level Canal (Ed. M.L. Jones). Bull. Biol. Soc. Wash., No. 2, viii + 270 pp., illustr.Google Scholar
Glynn, P.W. (1976). Some physical and biological determinants of coral community structure in the eastern Pacific. Ecol. Monogr., 46, pp. 431–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Glynn, P.W. (1977). Coral growth in upwelling and nonupwelling areas off the Pacific coast of Panama. J. Mar. Res., 35, pp. 567–85.Google Scholar
Glynn, P.W. (1983). Increased survivorship in corals harboring crustacean symbionts. Mar. Biol. Lett., 4, pp. 105–11.Google Scholar
Goreau, T. F. (1964). Mass expulsion of zooxanthellae from Jamaican reef communities after Hurricane Flora. Science, 145, pp. 383–6.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Johannes, R.E. (1975). Pollution and degradation of coral reef communities. Pp. 1351 in Tropical Marine Pollution (Ed. E.J. Ferguson Wood & R.E. Johannes). Elsevier Oceanogr. Ser., 12, × + 192 pp., illustr.Google Scholar
Marszalek, D.S. (1981). Impact of dredging on a subtropical reef community, southeast Florida, U.S.A. Proc. Fourth Intl Coral Reef Symp., Manila, 1, pp. 147–53.Google Scholar
Philander, S.G.H. (1983). El Niño Southern oscillation phenomena. Nature (London), 302, pp. 295301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wyrtki, K. (1975 a). Investigation of the El Niño phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean. Environmental Conservation, 2(4), pp. 281–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wyrtki, K. (1975 b). El Niño—the dynamic response of the Equatorial Pacific Ocean to atmospheric forcing. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 5, pp. 272–84.2.0.CO;2>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wyrtki, K., Stroup, E., Patzert, W., Williams, R. & Quinn, W. (1976). Predicting and observing El Niño. Science, 191, pp. 343–6.Google Scholar