[Coral-List] Reef Remnancy not resiliency

Christopher Hawkins chwkins at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 21 13:15:18 EST 2006

Phil and everyone:
  Your shot across the bow is welcome by some of us who realize that the biology only holds so much promise for a solution, and that there are a suite of things that need to be employed in tandem with the biophysical sciences to address these issues.  
  I am not sure where I stand about remnancy vs. resiliency.  It has a bit of a chicken and the egg connotation to it.   Are some reefs remnant because they are resilient?  Are they now resilient because they are remnant, for whatever reason?  It is a tough one to wrap your head around...
  I'd like to comment, though, on one part of your posting, and that is the notion that promoting competition among dive shops with a "R" scale.  I would think that identifying a reef as an R3 would prompt management to look more towards limiting activities at that site, rather than a "rush to destroy it" approach. 
  At first glance, I might suggest that such a scale would be useful, though.  However, it is critical not just to understand the reef condition, but also the users of that reef(s).  Specialization theory (a human dimensions tool) offers a framework to do this.  With specialization, we know that there are is a continuum of users from low to highly specialized (e.g. PADI Open Water Divers to Nitrox Divers), and that highly specialized users are the ones most likey to obey regulations and support management actions (Ditton, Loomis, Choi, 1992; Salz and Loomis, 2005, Salz, Loomis and Finn, 2001;  Bryan, 1977/2000).  Directing those users with to an R3, R4, or R5 reef would be then become a management alternative.
  In addition, management alternatives such as  placing only a few mooring bouys at the highest "R" sites, would seem like a good strategy.
  Of course, all of this depends on identifiying resilient or remnant reefs and then scaling them,  which seems to be what is causing some problems.  And on understanding the nature of the area's user groups, which is never done very methodically.
  I have just identified one potential way to like resiliency to a conservation mechanism.  I believe there are others, but we need to know all of the tools available.

><));>  ><));>  ><));>  ><));>
  Christopher Hawkins, PhD student
  Human Dimensions of Resource Management
  Marine and Coastal Ecosystems Program
  Department of Natural Resources Conservation
  314 Holdsworth Hall
  University of Massachusetts
  Amherst, MA 01003
  Dear Coral List,
 I’d like to thank everyone for participating in 
the discussion about 
healthy reefs in teh Florida Keys. I've gotten 
lots of response but no 
one can point to a healthy reef, because there 
are none left. And 
probably haven't been for a long time.

 My point is that before we talk about 
resilience, maybe we can reach a 
true consensus that the reefs are a mere shadow 
of their past. By my 
calculations nad measurments, the Keys have lost 
over 90% of their 
living coral since we began to study them in the 
1960s and 70s. The 
Tortugas are in better shape, but are also losing 
vitality pretty fast 
too. This is shameful. All this time we have been 
talking about studies, 
monitoring, and awareness and the house has been 
in full flames right in 
front of our faces. Shame on everyone that wants 
to minimize this or, 
even worse, deny it.  The authorities should be 
worried about how to 
protect what is left, and should have been fully 
engaged in this years 
ago, but everyone wants to pretend that it’s 
patchy, or not here, or 
look over there, there’s a new recruit!  Worse 
yet, some want us to 
think that we can remake the reef with concrete 
or boulders- the built 
it and they will come mentality. There really is 
no point in continuing 
to wear a smiley face.  Looking for patches that 
are the remnants of a 
far greater luxuriance, without documenting 
(georeferencing) the losses 
that are far greater, supports this form of 

 Well, the water is too polluted and we’ve know 
this for a very long 
time. We may not know exactly how, but we know it 
is and perhaps there 
are some creative ways to reduce loading.  And 
there are too many people 
fishing and gathering, and  Key Largo STILL does 
not have a sewage 
system because its too expensive?  And watershed 
effluent is not simply 

But still we look for bright spots. I 
think it’s because it’s 
more politically palpable and easier. The really 
worthwhile road is 
hundreds of years long and involves some really 
hard reality checks, 
sacrifice, political savy, and serious money. 
What's the point of having 
a sanctuary if there's nothing left except an 

 It’s been said by many that the coral reef 
science community eats their 
young.  It also seems to be good at reinventing 
discoveries and denial. 
  The reefs are dying faster that we are 
progressing however.  Rather 
than resiliency, I’d favor a term like remnancy 
(to coin a new term) 
that portrays reality a bit more.  Which reefs 
are hanging on, or slower 
in losing ground. Perhaps we could institute a 
scale of remnancy (the R 
scale from 0-5). Molasses reef might be rated as 
R2, Rock Key R3, 
Carysfort R1, etc
 Maybe this might help create 
public awareness and 
political pressure. It would also promote healthy 
competition between 
dives shops and localities along the Keys. Who 
wants to dive on an R2 
when we can go to an R3?  In a few hundred years 
some reefs might even 
be up to R4 if  conservation is successful.
 Otherwise,with business as usual, we just keep 
shifting the baseline 
downward and keep studying the reef, and gee, 
it’s a problem that we 
need to keep working on.  But the house is now 
ashes and the emperor is 
wearing a beautiful set of new clothes.
  Thanks again and I hope we can keep focusing on 
the reefs. Just 
imagine the Florida Keys without reefs?

Phillip Dustan  Ph.D.
Department of Biology
College of Charleston
Charleston   SC  29424
(843) 953-8086 voice
(843) 953-5453 (Fax)


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