Debate Over Future of Coral Reefs

Les Kaufman lesk at
Tue Jan 18 08:53:34 EST 2000

Dear Terry,

Great response to Billy's posting.

One thing that concerns me is that our threshold for noticing something
different or wrong in the ecological state of a coral reef is so high.  Of
course what is normative varies all over the map for reefs, as we discussed
in detail in the Boston meeting.  But this does not imply that wild
fluctuations and massive phase shifts should be considered normal for any
PARTICULAR reef within any GIVEN time period.   Changes in many tropical
west Atlantic reefs in the past three decades may seem insignificant
against the backdrop of fluctuations in distribution, abundance, and
structure of Atlantic reefs through the Holocene.  But that doesn't mean
they are insignificant now, or for us.  Ask a reef biologist in Jamaica,
Florida, or Belize how their reefs are looking and you will likely get a
different answer than in Bonaire, Hawaii, or on the GBR.  And of course,
the same contrasts exist on a smaller scale within each of these regions
(except maybe Jamaica!).

I know you wouldn't disagree that we need to keep both the local and the
global perspectives in mind when passing judgement on reef status and
trends, but I'm not sure how many others embrace this view.

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