Coral Reef Water Temperature

Diver swimming to water temperature logger
A diver swimming down to a water temperature logger at a coral reef in Dry Tortugas National Park.

NPS Photo/Rob Waara

The Coral Reef Ecosystem Water Temperature Monitoring Protocol is a guide for the deployment, maintenance, and data management of South Florida/Caribbean Network (SFCN) temperature loggers. These loggers are currently deployed as part of a long-term coral reef monitoring program.

Temperature loggers are located at reef depth at a position generally representative of the site, typically at a centrally located coral reef monitoring transect pin. Most reefs are between 2-20m depth but can reach 30+m deep. Duplicate loggers are attached at the same point. The exception to this logger placement occurs at Salt River National Histoical Park and Ecological Reserve, which has the greatest range of depths of any of the sites. In this case 2 locations were selected, one at a deep location and the second at a shallower location to better capture potential temperature differences.

The three primary monitoring objectives for this vital sign are:
  • Determine occurrence and duration of warm and cold water events that exceed thresholds known to cause stress (e.g., coral bleaching) to coral species for the purpose of interpreting trends in coral community metrics at sites established at Biscayne National Park, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Dry Tortugas National Park, Salt River National Historic Park and Ecological Reserve and Virgin Islands National Park.
  • Determine the status and trends in water temperatures at reef depth at coral monitoring sites established in Biscayne National Park, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Dry Tortugas National Park, Salt River National Histoical Park and Ecological Reserve, and Virgin Islands National Park.
  • Assess any correlations of warm water events and/or cold water events with coral bleaching and/or disease outbreaks at sites established at Biscayne National Park, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Dry Tortugas National Park, Salt River National Histoical Park and Ecological Reserve, and Virgin Islands National Park
Water temperature has been historically collected as a basic parameter of water quality monitoring efforts at coral reef sites throughout the world. There are numerous references in scientific literature suggesting a link between water temperature anomalies and coral colony survivorship. Coral bleaching occurs when the coral host loses zooxanthellae from its tissue due to physiological stress, most often associated with high water temperatures and/or high incidence of solar radiation. Additionally, unusual cold water temperatures have been found to affect the survivorship of corals and other reef dwelling organisms. The National Park Service (NPS) and United States Geological Survey (USGS) have collected water temperature data around St. John and VIIS since 1990. This effort has been expanded throughout the network, with 39 long-term in-situ water temperature monitoring sites presently managed by the network in Biscayne National Park, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Dry Tortugas National Park, Salt River National Histoical Park and Ecological Reserve, and Virgin Islands National Park. Data collected under this protocol will also be useful to NPS efforts outside the network such as the Climate Change Response Program to help address climate change strategies. This data complements in situ seawater temperature data information collected by several partners throughout the Florida reef tract.

Coral Reef Water Temperature publications

Find all monitoring reports, protocols, and resource briefs below.
Datasets

Source: Data Store Saved Search 3522 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Protocol

Source: Data Store Saved Search 3519 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: November 1, 2018