Reefs At Risk

Alina Szmant aszmant at
Wed Jun 24 21:59:40 EDT 1998



(a)  We've been working on A palmata settlement and culture both in the lab
and field.  Progress is steady but slow, because there has been no real
funding for such work (e.g. bootlegged).

(b)  We've also figured out how to culture Diadema in the lab and been
seeking funds to scale up the culture methodology, with no success to date.

Unfortunately, there is lots of money out there for monitoring and
assessment,  but not much for develping solutions like those you suggest.


At 05:29 PM 6/24/98 -0400, you wrote:
>Dear Steve and Phil and everybody,
>Reef decline appears to have been widespread in the tropical west Atlantic
>over the past two decades.  Most prominent is the reduction in prevalence
>of acroporid corals, and increase, in many places, of macrophytes.  Belize
>was unusual in that when the acroporids began to vanish, there was an
>endemic agariciid (absent elsewhere in the region) that could serve as a
>partial functional replacement, and it did.
>Since the original high-coral coverage condition is more highly valued than
>what we are seeing more of today, it would undoubtedly be most productive
>        1.  appreciate natural trends toward regeneration, and their scaling
>        2.  judge whether natural regeneration is satisfactory
>        3.  develop interventions that facilitate and accelerate regeneration
>                on the largest spatial and smallest temporal scales possible.
>Let us presume that Step 2, the regeneration rate concommitant with the
>passive approach to reef conservation, is not sufficient to offset rates of
>degradation in Florida.  Note that whether this is or isn't the periphery
>of reef growth doesn't matter.  All that matters is that reefs can grow
>here and it is worth some effort to see that they do.  Then we must move on
>to Step 3.
>Step 3 implies aggressive perturbation (some would call it "restoration")
>experiments.  Looking about, I dont' see a great many such experiments in
>progress.  Kudos to Richmond and Mueller and their people.  What are we
>doing to adapt and expand their methodologies?  What capabilities do we
>need at our disposal?
>        A.  ability to upregulate grazing pressure
>        B.  ability to downregulate nutrient inputs
>        C.  ability to force-recruit corals on a large scale
>My own guess is that grazing pressure in Florida is pretty high (though
>perhaps the ability to force-recruit Diadema would be helpful on a local
>basis); and that if nutrients are a major issue, we are already doing what
>we can to reduce the inputs.  That means, shouldn't we be looking harder
>and more seriously than we are at option "C?"  This option offers a
>wonderful probe of the resiliency of the system....if healthy live corals
>appear on the reef but do not survive, then something probably must be done
>with A or B, or there is a food web problem with coral predators, otherwise
>give up on reefs altogether for now because it's a large-scale
>environmental health issue that must be addressed first.
>Since acroporids and agariciids are the principal corals with response
>times and growth rates commensurate with human intervention, should they
>not be the principal focus of efforts toward C?
>It would be really helpful if we could reach some consensus on this.  No
>one strategy is sufficient to conserve Florida's reefs, but we should be
>coming up with a clear and articulate definition of the top-priority
>conservation science and methodologies needed to do the job...and we
>aren't, unless I've missed something.
>Monitoring IS important, but only in the context of adaptive management.
>What are our goals?  What shall our complete litany of interventions be?
>What room have we left ourselves for trial and error?  Are the intervention
>experiments well designed and sufficiently powerful to serve our needs?
>The alternative is to reduce human impacts as much as possible, and then
>watch and wait.
>These are two very different, complementary strategies.
>What combination of these do we, as a community, advocate?
>Les Kaufman
>Boston University Marine Program
>Department of Biology
>Boston University
>5 Cummington Street
>Boston, MA 02215
>e-mail: lesk at
>phone: 617-353-5560
>fax:   617-353-6340
>"I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and
>democracy... but that could change."
>-Vice President Dan Quayle, 5/22/89
Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Coral Reef Research Group
University of Miami
4600 Rickenbacker Cswy.
Miami FL 33149

TEL: (305)361-4609
FAX: (305)361-4600 or 361-4005

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