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Wednesday, August 20 2014 @ 06:44 AM EDT

Unusually Warm Waters Causing Coral Bleaching in Panamanian Caribbean Waters

Environmental Issues PANAMA (AFP) The waters around the Caribbean coast of Panama rose two degrees of temperature in the last two weeks, which has already produced consequences for marine organisms, said the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). "The temperature of the last 10 weeks was maintained at an average of 30 C, when the normal temperature is 28 C," said the scientific body based in Panama. According to the STRI, the warming "is affecting the entire Caribbean coast of Panama, Kuna-Yala, Isla Grande, Portobelo and Galeta, to Bocas del Toro, all locations located to the North of the country."

The researchers suspected that something was not right, when a week ago the issued an alert when they observed coral bleaching and and unusual mortality of marine invertebrates in Bocas del Toro. Teams from the Smithsonian and local dive operators noticed that the water showed "an abnormal warming of up to 32 C," says a statement. Coral bleaching is "the result of stress experienced by coral reefs due to factors such as elevated water temperature" but does not necessarily mean death, experts said, who are now assessing the impact of water heating.

Hector Guzman of the STRI believes "it is possible" that the entry of the hurricane season has created a low level of circulation of the waters of the southwestern Caribbean, so the water remains "stuck" between Panama and Costa Rica. In 2005 a similar event was observed in the Caribbean that included a severe bleaching of corals in Panama, although mortality was less than 12% in the area. (Telemetro)

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