Monitoring of Sea Surface Temperature in Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia Between 2015 and 2016 Report
Semporna 2-Year Sea Surface Temperature report (final3) ISBN_Page_01
Semporna Priority Conservation Area (PCA), situated at the Apex of Coral Triangle, the center of marine biodiversity, harbours the most concentrated coral reefs in Malaysia. These reefs not only provide fishing ground for local fishermen, they also attract SCUBA divers from all over the world. In addition to the local threats, the rise
of sea surface temperature is one of the most wide spread threat to coral reefs. Corals tend to bleach or turn white from the absence of zooxanthellae due to heat stress. WWF-Malaysia recognises the impacts of climate change, in particular the rise of sea surface temperature on the coral reefs. This study was conducted to collect baseline data for sea surface temperature (SST) trends, with the aim to monitor the SST trend
at reef sites in Semporna.
Underwater field trips were conducted every six months to retrieve temperature loggers at reefs site at 8-10 meter depth around Semporna waters. The study revealed that the months where SSTs exceed the bleaching threshold for more than two weeks were April to May 2016. There is an increment of 0.41°C in year 2016 (n=2196, mean
SST=29.28±0.028°C) compared to the baseline of mean SST of 28.87 ±0.031 °C in year 2015 (n=1945). Bohey Dulang Island, located at the lagoon in Tun Sakaran Marine Park, had the highest mean SST compared to all sites for both years. Pompom Island, situated at the exposed northeast of Semporna PCA, had the lowest mean SST.
This study supported the development of a district level coral bleaching early response plan with the contribution from governmental agencies, private sectors, NGOs and local communities. A results sharing workshop was conducted and stakeholders are now aware of their role and responsibility for future bleaching events. Stakeholder cooperation is crucial to increase the resilience of coral reefs and to provide the optimum condition for corals to recover from mass coral bleaching.