[Coral-List] A healthy Reef in the Florida Keys?

Dr. Stephen Jameson sjameson at coralseas.com
Mon Feb 20 04:06:15 EST 2006

Dear Phil,

Thanks for the Coral-List note regarding:

>> Dear Listers,
>> With all this work, talk, and conferencing on coral reef resiliency
>> underway, I was wondering if anyone can identify a healthy reef (as
>> measured by some suite of measurable parameters) in the Florida Keys or
>> Dry Tortugas that we could use as a "standard, or baseline reef".


Jameson SC, Erdmann MV, Karr JR, Potts KW (2001) Charting a course toward
diagnostic monitoring: A continuing review of coral reef attributes and a
research strategy for creating coral reef indexes of biotic integrity.  Bull
Mar Sci 69(2):701-744

"In multimetric biological assessment, reference condition equates with
biological integrity.  Biological integrity is defined as the condition at
sites able to support and maintain a balanced, integrated, and adaptive
biological system having the full range of elements and processes expected
for that biogeographical region and type of environment (coral reef zone)
(Jameson et al. 2001, Table 1, page 702).  Biological integrity is the
product of ecological and evolutionary processes at a site with MINIMAL
human influence (determined by best available information)."

As you well know, there is no reef in the Florida Keys with minimal human
influence. For a recent summary of this situation see:

Jameson SC, Tupper MH, Ridley JM (2002) The three screen doors: can marine
³protected² areas be effective? Marine Pollution Bulletin 44(11):1177-1183.

So how could you approach this problem?

Your question is assuming just using a "single" reference site to create a
reference condition. (Note of caution: I would recommend using more than one
reference site to create a reference condition for a specific biogeographic
region.  Also, reference conditions based on reference sites may incorporate
considerable variability because of scale and in some biogeographic regions
this variability may be unsatisfactory.)

However, you can create reference conditions using a combination of the
following types of data (Jameson et al. 2001, page 705).  Each approach has
its strength and weaknesses.

Experimental Laboratory
Quantitative Models
Best Professional Judgment
References Sites

But, before this question can be answered a few more questions need to be

1.  What metrics and related organisms are you using in your monitoring and
assessment program?  Are you just looking at corals or are you developing a
more complex invertebrate, algae and/or fish index of biotic integrity with
a mix of species?  For example, if you were using forams you might have good
paleo data to create your reference condition with.   If you are using
corals, there might be good historical data or you might be able to use
agent based models (like John McManus is developing) and run them backwards
to get a historical perspective.  Best professional judgment will also be a
valuable resource for all metrics.

Your sampling protocol is critical, it needs to be consistent and this will
control what organisms are available for analysis - and determine what
reference conditions are needed.  If you can't create a defendable reference
condition then your chosen metric is of little use.

2.  What coral reef zone are you targeting (Esther's point).  Different
types of organisms will be found in different zones, so you want to be
comparing apples to apples and not confounding (mixing) data.  This will
also influence what reference conditions you need to develop.

3.  How far back in history do you want to go with your reference condition
- pre-Columbus, start of the industrial revolution, pre-Miami development?

Bottom line:  just using a single Florida Keys reference site selected in
2006 will not produce a satisfactory reference condition in the Florida Keys
situation no matter what metric/s you are using - which I know you realize.

I am putting the final touches on the following paper that outlines these
concepts in more detail.

Jameson SC, Karr JR, Potts KW (in ms) Coral reef biological response
signatures:  a new approach to coral reef monitoring and assessment with
early warning, diagnostic, and status & trend capabilities. Coral Reefs

Also see, when it comes out:

Jameson SC (in press) Summary of Mini-Symposium 4-2, Diagnostic Monitoring
and Assessment of Coral Reefs: Studies from Around the World. Proc 10th Intl
Coral Reef Symposium, Okinawa, Japan

I hope this brief summary helps.
All papers referenced can be downloaded at <http://www.coralseas.com>.
If I can be of further service please give me a call.

PS.  Caution should be used with respect to using "resilient reefs" for
reference sites as the fact that they are categorized as "resilient"
suggests that they have been subjected to stressors and are not located in
minimally impaired environments.  We are looking for those reefs that have
not bleached - which as Greg points out - will be harder and harder to find,
thus reinforcing the need to use the other approaches for creating reference

Best regards,

Dr. Stephen C. Jameson, President
Coral Seas Inc. - Integrated Coastal Zone Management
4254 Hungry Run Road, The Plains, VA  20198-1715  USA
Office:  703-754-8690, Fax:  703-754-9139
Email:  sjameson at coralseas.com
Web Site:  http://www.coralseas.com


Research Collaborator
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Washington, DC 20560


> Gregor and Phil make good points.  As part of an exercise to look at
> reef classification for the purpose of developing coral reef
> biocriteria, I examined the Coral Reef Evaluation and Monitoring Program
> data from the Keys collected in 1996, looking at coral cover, species
> dominance, and richness, and applying the "coral morphological
> triangles" (conservation class) concept of Edinger and Risk (2000).  A
> preliminary comparison with the results obtained from the 2004 CREMP
> dataset revealed that just in those few years there were significant
> structural and functional changes at some offshore shallow reef sites.
>    And of course, based on long-time Keys' residents and reef
> scientists, we know of even more changes over the past 25 years.  The
> Nature Conservancy's diverse approach is also important to help us
> understand reef dynamics in the Keys and the influences of natural and
> anthropogenic disturbances.  I'm not sure that anyone has figured out
> the "standard, or baseline reef."  My first look at this issue indicates
> that even in the Keys there are several biotopes and more investigations
> are needed as to which one(s) should serve as "reference condition" for
> each class.
> Esther Peters

> Hi Phil- As Chris mentioned, The Florida Reef Resilience Program (FRRP) has
> been working on this question for the past year. Finding few agreed upon
> quantitative metrics for assessing resilience on Florida reefs in the
> literature has led us to approaching it from a number of different angles-
> expert input, review and analysis of existing monitoring data, statistically
> based broad-scale surveys to quantify response to disturbance (in this case
> bleaching) across all sub-regions and reef zones that have been identified
> within the Florida reef tract, and finer scale investigations tracking coral
> survivorship along selected gradients.
> Below is a summary from a pilot expert based (delphic) exercise we did last
> year to tap into local knowledge. Not surprisingly, we found quite a bit of
> disparity between what experts thought were "resilient" often based on
> background/expertise/age of the person. From this excersise, we have a GIS
> database and can provide maps which identify over 43 "resilient" reefs as
> identified by experts along with the reasons these reefs were identified.
> This might be a useful starting point for where to start looking at some
> standard metrics. Steven Miller's group also has a very rich baseline
> dataset collected over a number of years for a much broader set of
> functional and structural indicators that may also help inform this
> question.
> If anyone is interested in the expert maps or an overview of the FRRP
> program just let me know.  We can also share results of the first broad
> scale bleaching surveys carried out last summer.
> Regards,
> Phil
> Philip Kramer, Ph. D.
> Director, Caribbean Marine Program
> The Nature Consevancy
> 55 N. Johnson Road
> Sugarloaf Key, FL 33042
> 305-745-8402 ext. 103
> Summary of South Florida Reef Expert Meetings on Reslience
> One of the initial goals of the Florida Reef Resilience Program (FRRP) is to
> locate and map coral reefs within the region that exhibit characteristics of
> resilience.  To arrive at this goal, several activities have been
> implemented by The Nature Conservancy during spring 2005.  Along with
> conducting an analysis of existing coral reef monitoring data, anecdotal
> information has been collected from local reef experts to help identify
> where potentially resilient reefs are located.  A diverse array of
> individuals with considerable first hand knowledge of the coral reef
> resources within the region were identified and subsequently interviewed for
> this effort.  Three tropical sea life collectors, 2 fishers, 6 federal
> employees (NOAA and USGS), 1 state employee, 5 individuals affiliated with
> universities, 7 members of local non-governmental organizations, and 1 dive
> industry representative were involved with  this process.  These 25
> individuals provided a wealth of information from a wide geographic range
> and from varying perspectives.
> Interviews with individuals or small groups were conducted over a 4 week
> period; from April 1 through Aril 26, 2005.  During each interview, a
> similar range of questions were asked to ensure compatibility of responses.
> Reef experts were first given a brief description about the FRRP goals and
> overview of a number of activities currently underway.  Each person was
> first asked to comment on the spatial framework which identifies unique reef
> “strata” that occur within different subregions and cross shelf zones of the
> Florida reef tract. This spatial framework will function to identify
> distinct reef biotopes within the region and guide the a regional
> stratiofied sampling design to assess response to disturbances such as coral
> bleaching.  Interviewed participants provided useful information on ways to
> improve the framework and/or confirm it’s accuracy from their point of view.
> Experts were asked if they know of existing data sets that may be useful for
> the further improvement of the spatial framework as well.   In order to
> assess the geographic areas each individual is most familiar with, the zones
> and sub-regions within the spatial framework were used as a reference.
> Following these discussions, using nautical charts, benthic habitat maps,
> and other spatial datasets, reef experts were asked to identify reef or
> hardbottom areas they believe have maintained its functional integrity over
> the past years to decades given the various disturbances which have
> influenced south Florida.  They were also asked if they know of “special or
> unique areas” that may act as refuges (e.g., do not bleach when other areas
> do or have functional or structural characteristics indicative of resilience
> such areas with particularly high coral cover or large living coral heads,
> etc..).  Interviewees identified a wide range of potentially resilient
> areas- from specific parts of individual reefs to entire habitats or zones.
> The information gathered from these interviews on potentially resilient reef
> areas was tabulated and then digitized in GIS.  Along with these questions,
> we asked the experts to comment on why they belief these areas are showing
> signs of “resilience” (factors of resilience).  Finally, we asked each
> expert to describe what attributes of a reef is most valuable to them.
> Table 1:  List of interviewed reef experts
> Reef Expert     Organization/Occupation    Geographic Area of Expertise
> Don de Maria     Fisher    Lower Keys
> Billy Causey     Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary    Region wide
> Ken Nedimyer     Tropical sea life collector    Upper and Lower Keys
> Lad Atkins     Reef Environmental Education Foundation    Keys wide and SE
> Harold Hudson    Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary    Keys wide
> Forest Young    Dynasty Marine    Rebecca Shoal to Middle Keys
> Bob Ginsburg    University of Miami, RSMAS    Region wide
> Margaret Miller    NOAA-Fisheries    Upper Keys through Miami
> Dana Williams    NOAA-Fisheries    Upper Keys through Miami
> Rodrigo Garza    University of Miami, RSMAS    Tortugas and Miami
> Michelle PaddockUniversity of Miami, RSMAS    Upper Keys through Miami
> Bill Parks     Tropical sea life collector    Palm Beach County
> Gene Shinn     US Geological Survey    Region wide
> Bob Halley     US Geological Survey    Region wide
> Walt Jaap     Florida Wildlife Research Institute    Region wide
> Pam Muller    University of South Florida    Region wide
> Dr. Ray McAllister Prof. Emeritus, Florida Atlantic University    SE Coast
> Stephen Attis     Vone Research (501c3)    Broward County
> Timothy Attis    Vone Research (501c3)    Broward County
> Debrorah Devers    Vone Research (501c3)    Broward County
> David Zinni    Vone Research (501c3)    Broward County
> Randy Brooks    Vone Research (501c3)    Broward County
> Jeff Torode     Greater Ft. Lauderdale Diving Association     Broward County
> Peter Cone    Lobster diver    Key West
> Erich Bartels    Mote Marine Laboratory    Region wide

> Gregor Hodgson wrote:
>> Hi Phil,
>> I think that we are about 25 years too late at best to establish a
>> "baseline." Might be good to trawl old video?
>> Since you raised the "R" word - may I comment that while 'resilency' may be
>> a useful heuristic tool, its relevance to coral reef conservation is nil. It
>> is impossible to predict what the future holds for individual coral reefs
>> given the large scale changes expected in ocean and atmospheric circulation,
>> sea level and linked chemical and biological parameters. In fact, basing
>> conservation models on our guesses at "resilency" rather than bet-hedging
>> will likely increase the chances of losing more reefs.
>> Over the long term, luckily there are several hundred species of corals and
>> only one species of human.
>> Regards,
>> Greg
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Phil Dustan
>> Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2006 7:39 AM
>> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>> Subject: [Coral-List] Re: A healthy Reef in the Florida Keys?
>> Dear Listers,
>> With all this work, talk, and conferencing on coral reef resiliency
>> underway, I was wondering if anyone can identify a healthy reef (as
>> measured by some suite of measurable parameters) in the Florida Keys or
>> Dry Tortugas that we could use as a "standard, or baseline reef".
>> Thanks,
>> Phil
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