Skip to main content

Three decades of heat stress exposure in Caribbean coral reefs: a new regional delineation to enhance conservation



Complete Citation



  • Increasing heat stress due to global climate change is causing coral reef decline, and the Caribbean has been one of the most vulnerable regions. Here, we assessed three decades (1985-2017) of heat stress exposure in the wider Caribbean at ecoregional and local scales using remote sensing. We found a high spatial and temporal variability of heat stress, emphasizing an observed increase in heat exposure over time in most ecoregions, especially from 2003 identified as a temporal change point in heat stress. A spatiotemporal analysis classified the Caribbean into eight heat-stress regions offering a new regionalization scheme based on historical heat exposure patterns. The temporal analysis confirmed the years 1998, 2005, 2010-2011, 2015 and 2017 as severe and widespread Caribbean heat-stress events and recognized a change point in 2002-2004, after which heat exposure has been frequent in most subsequent years. Major heat-stress events may be associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), but we highlight the relevance of the long-term increase in heat exposure in most ecoregions and in all ENSO phases. This work produced a new baseline and regionalization of heat stress in the basin that will enhance conservation and planning efforts underway.

Publication Date

  • 2019