Symposium Report: Coral Reefs and Global Change

Coral Health and Monitoring Program coral at
Thu Jan 22 09:39:04 EST 1998

We are pleased to present a document received today from Bob Buddemeier,
Co-Organizer of the symposium, "Coral Reefs and Global Change:
Adaptation, Acclimation or Extinction?," held January 3-11, 1998 in
Boston, Massachusetts.  The location of the document on the Web is:

Following is the text of the Executive Summary:



Major revisions of concepts about corals and reef systems were developed
by an international working group of scientific experts that met in
conjunction with the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, the
International Society for Reef Studies, and the Ecological Society of
America (Boston, January 3-11, 1998) to evaluate the scientific basis for
growing concerns about the survival of coral reef ecosystems facing global
change and local stresses. The group, sponsored by the Scientific
Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) and the Land-Ocean Interactions in
the Coastal Zone (LOICZ) core project of the International
Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), and with the support of the NOAA
Coastal Ocean Program, produced an interdisciplinary synthesis with
important implications for research, assessment, and management. Key
conclusions were:

+ The calcification rates of corals, coralline algae, and coral-algal
communities depends on the calcium carbonate saturation state of surface
seawater, and are expected to be reduced by rising atmospheric carbon
dioxide. This represents a global, systemic, climate-related threat to the
functioning of reef ecosystems that will interact with the more immediate
anthropogenic local stresses.

+ Coral reefs and communities are products of processes operating over a
wide range of interacting time and space scales, with fundamentally
different controls operating at different scales. While short-term
responses will be controlled by local environmental conditions and biotic
responses, the longer-term sustainability of a reef system depends on the
recruitment, dispersal, persistence, and interactions of populations at
larger scales.

+ Corals, and to some extent reef communities, possess numerous mechanisms
for acclimatization and adaptation - diverse reproductive strategies,
flexible symbiotic relationships, physiological acclimatization, habitat
tolerance, and a range of community interactions. However, current
understanding of these mechanisms, as well as of the critically important
calcification mechanisms, is inadequate to explain the past success of
corals and reefs or to ensure their conservation for the future.

Unlike many terrestrial ecosystems, coral reef ecosystems appear to be
directly threatened by globally increasing atmospheric CO2. Therefore,
conservation or management strategies aimed at removing or mitigating only
local, human-derived, or recently applied environmental stresses are
likely to be inadequate. Corals and reefs are potentially robust and
resilient, but realizing that potential requires the development of new
approaches and greater integration of fundamental and applied research,
conservation, and management.

More information about the Coral-list-old mailing list