On touching corals

Kent Backman backman at aloha.net
Mon Jan 27 16:53:38 EST 1997

This is in response to a question from Jeremy Woodley <woodley at uwimona.edu.jm>, forwarded to me by Dr. Brian Tissot, University of Hawaii at Hilo. 

>Can anyone refer me to any study of the effects on corals (apart from
>breakage) of being touched or pushed by divers? 
>Jeremy Woodley,
>Centre for Marine Sciences,
>University of the West Indies, Jamaica.

	My senior thesis is on exactly that subject: the effects of human touch on corals.  "What happens to coral when you touch it," is a common question asked by countless reef visitors, and is often answered by an all-too-often-assumed answer.  There have be
en countless studies on coral damage from pollution, anchor damage, trampling, sedimentation, and even experimentally inflicted breakage.  But as far as any studies on what exactly happens to a coral specimen when you touch it, I have yet to find one.  

	In my current research, some interesting results have been found.  I studied the most common coral genus in Hawaii, Porites, and found that resistance to human touch varies between species.  With treated specimens of Porites compressa, visible scarring o
ccurred and is still evident after three months.  Porites lobata, on the other hand, "recovered" visibly after just a few weeks.  One important investigation that I am studying now concerns the effects of multiple treatments (long-term repeated touching) 
on Porites spp. corals.

If you would like to find out more about this study, visit my web page where I will have preliminary results and slides posted by February 1, 1997, at:


Kent Backman
Marine Science Department
University of Hawaii at Hilo
backman at hawaii.edu

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