nutrients and interdisciplinarity

Mike Risk riskmj at
Thu Oct 4 09:54:14 EDT 2001

Hiya Christine.

I was interested in your studies on C. Orientalis, and look forward to the
rest of the stuff coming out. More and more, it appears to me that we are
looking down the barrel of a gun that says "End-Oligocene Extinction Event."
Or a parallel thereof.

Some comments re nutrients: Yes, we often say "nutrients" when we mean
"phosphates and nitrates." There is a conundrum here, however: after roughly
30 years' worth of nutrient studies on reefs, the picture of reef response
to nutrients (a.k.a. phosphates and nitrates) is still unclear-and it should
have been. (Am I the only one who has noticed this?)

I think it is time for us to bite the bullet, and admit that phosphates and
nitrates are only imperfect proxies of important biological processes. This
will be a hard addiction to kick, because they are easy to measure, everyone
does it...but it is time to start analysing the organics.

Notwithstanding the notorious reluctance of the coral reef research
community ever to agree on common methodology-I suggest that a reasonable
start would be to adopt, as a first step, Chlorophll A column measurements
as a water quality indicator. Then we could begin to winkle out
cause-and-effect relations.

Further comments on turbidity, suspension, resuspension, etc etc: this is
why every coral reef research program has to include at least one
sedimentologist. Those people had this all worked out decades ago, it's all
in the sedimentology literature.


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