Meeting report

Bob Buddemeier buddrw at
Fri Jan 23 18:34:47 EST 1998

Dear Coral-Listers,

Jim Hendee has kindly posted the initial report the Boston Symposium and
working group meeting at  For the benefit of
those who don't have good www access or who haven't had time to get
there yet, I am attaching the executive summary below.  A Proceedings
volume of American Zoologist is in preparation.

I want to acknowledge the participation and contributions of those who
presented contributed papers at the meeting, and the audience at the
symposium sessions.  It was an unusually interactive and productive
experience.  In particular, I need to point out that the contributed
paper* presented by Chris Langdon (langdon at and
colleagues was a particularly important contribution to the recognition
of the importance of saturation state controls on calcification, which
effectively complemented the symposium presentations of Gattuso,
Kleypas, and Opdyke.

*Effect of carbonate saturation state on the rate of calcification of an
experimental coral reef.  C. Langdon, T, Takahashi, T. McConnaughey, H.
Anderson and H. West.  Abstract published on p 72A, American Zoologist
vol 37 no. 5, 1997.

A couple of personal comments (not, repeat not, pretending to speak for
the rest of the group):  
     One of the lessons that I thought I already knew, but that got
strongly reinforced, is that coral reef science is not
*interdisciplinary* by virtue of the fact that different specialists
publish mutually incomprehensible (or ignored) papers in the same
journal.  It gets really interdisciplinary when people put their minds
and efforts into understanding a very different viewpoint and unfamiliar
data sets, often presented in words that sound familiar but are defined
differently.  When that happens, the conceptual models and questions
change rapidly.
     My view of how this all fits into the past, present and future
focus on reef-related issues is that our results (1) add an additional
sense of urgency (in case we needed any), (2) complicate further the
development of conservation and management strategies by pointing out
the importance of factors operating at uncomfortably large time and
space scales (nobody will think we needed any more complication, I'm
sure), and (3) simplify or clarify research strategies by offering some
directions to head that will yield a better formulation of the problems
-- which is usually a prerequisite for their solution (not just *more
research/monitoring is needed,* but what it is that we need to
understand and measure). 

Hermatypically yours,

Bob Buddemeier



 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 depend 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.

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