coral reefs doomed for sure

Clive Wilkinson c.wilkinson at
Fri Oct 5 05:07:00 EDT 2001

Mike and others

I have watched this from afar - but feel that I must comment.

 "land-based sources of pollution ... are THE reef issue."

This is attempting to put the magic solution of a single cause to a
problem, when in fact there are often multiple causes of reef decline.

Pollution by nutrients and sediments are very pertinent on reefs surrounded
by shallow water, with lagoons or in embayments; these are minor issues for
remote oceanic reefs with deep water adjacent and strong currents. In SE
Asia and nearby, the major destructive forces for such remote clean-water
reefs are destructive fishing, especially blast fishing.

However, of the 11% of reefs reported lost in the last  Status of Coral
Reefs of the World 2000 report, most were either dredged up, smothered in
sediment, or had airports and the like built on them. A further 16% were
severely damaged in 1998 during the major El Nino / La Nina climate
switches. Many of the others are severely threatened by the usual mix of
impacts - pollution, sediments, over-exploitation including coral mining,
and engineering activities. Many of these threats act together and Global
Climate Change will probably add to all of these while also causing
bleaching. So reef loss will rarely be attributed to a single cause.


At 02:24 PM 10/2/01 -0400, Mike Risk wrote:
>Joanie has provided a spirited defense of her and her co-authors' work. I
>remain far from convinced that some of these matters are solved beyond the
>need of further debate. I will respond at length soon, after I finish
>getting in this year's firewood. But some quick comments-
>It seems that most scientific "clarifications" carry with them the seeds of
>further misunderstandings. Here are some additions:
>1. The comment about climate modellers not wishing to accept data that
>contradicted their models wasn't mine-it came from a well-known NOAA climate
>modeller, whom I will mercifully not name. My prior attempts to convince
>modellers to accept the need for extremely rapid ocean overturning were met
>with benign neglect. I felt it appropriate, therefore, to accept the
>valuation of someone in the field.
>2. The top of Orphan Knoll lies directly in the Gulf Stream Return Flow, so
>to suggest it is not connected with the Gulf Stream is misleading.
>3. Some modellers listen, and solicit data. We are now working very closely
>with several groups on the East Coast (BIO modellers and their US
>colleagues), as we begin to obtain long-term proxy records of the NAO,
>Labrador Current, and the inner Gulf Stream: information that was previously
>4. I don't consider that land-based sources of pollution are my "reef
>issue." (But I admit, I feel they are THE reef issue.) As we have seen,
>there is zero political will in North America for CO2 reductions. (Canadians
>are worse than the USA, by the way, just to demonstrate that I am an
>equal-opportunity slagger.) There will be action on this front only after
>the enormous public health costs sink in, and even then the response will be
>slow. In the meantime, something could be done about sewage and sediment
>stress. This is not rocket science, but would require that at least a large
>proportion of reef scientists speak with one voice.  There is already a
>trend among reef managers to blame "global change" for impacts that have
>clear local causes.
>Back to the maul (not mall).
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