[Coral-List] Fwd: Reply to Charles Birkeland

Gene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Tue Aug 22 10:01:07 EDT 2006

>Dear Chuck, Thanks for responding to my observations about "crude" 
>oil and corals. I recall from my 1974 visit to Goleta Point where 
>you had conducted the study that there were also test panels coated 
>with various refined oils. This is after the spill you mentioned. 
>Were these test panels part of the study you were conducting? The 
>treated panels were placed on the reef just off the laboratory and 
>they had a Braille-like system on them to allow recognition because 
>during the monsoon season the water on that reef looks like coffee 
>with cream. Fortunately, I visited during the dry season but was 
>still amazed that corals, especially Acropora could survive there. 
>As I remember, visibility during the dry season (when we were there) 
>was no more than 30 ft yet the full complement of Atlantic corals 
>were present. Ian MacIntyre and Peter Glynn were just finishing up 
>the core drilling that demonstrated how the reef, and reef flat, had 
>been constructed by A. palmata over the past few thousand years.
>      This classic study, based on a transect of numerous cores 
>demonstrated that A. palmata had grown to the surface and had 
>accreted seaward and produced a broad reef several meters thick in 
>spite of such poor water quality. Yes, Acropora was much more hardy 
>before the 1980s.
>      As I pointed out in my note to the coral list, crude oil is 
>less toxic than refined oils such as bunker C (which will sink) and 
>diesel oil that floats and is more water-soluble is even more toxic. 
>Considering water conditions at Goleta Point and the greater 
>toxicity of the oils tested, it is amazing that  your corals 
>survived even though their growth rate was reduced. (They were still 
>living after 61 days! How long did they live?)
>      Also, as I stated, I do not know the ultimate fate of the coral 
>I treated and would not be surprised if their growth rate had been 
>reduced. I emphasize again that crude oil, the kind most often 
>spilled during transoceanic shipment, (or from an offshore blowouts) 
>floats and is less toxic than refined products, To my knowledge 
>coral bioassays have yet to be conducted using crude oil and I wager 
>that such studies will not be attempted. Gene

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