[Coral-List] Reef Remnancy not resiliency

Craig S Bonn Craig.Bonn at noaa.gov
Wed Feb 22 09:44:49 EST 2006

Hi listers,  I recently accepted a position with the Dry Tortugas NP 
where I will be coordinating a monitoring program within a new 47 square 
mile research natural area recently established within park boundaries 
where all consumptive practices will be prohibited.  Diving and 
snorkeling will still be allowed and a system of mooring buoys has been 
established for boaters to tie up to within the RNA.

 I have worked in the Tortugas for the past six years and have witnessed 
myself the degradation that is occurring there-- some of the reefs are 
almost completely dead and covered in algae while others (Sherwood 
Forest in the northern portion of the TER) while healthier in terms of 
percent cover are also exhibiting signs of degradation and that it may 
simply be not how but when these reefs will suffer to the point of no 

I also know that there are so many variables involved in what is 
happening to our reefs on a global scale that the task at hand almost 
seems impossible especially  when you listen to the doom sayers who 
state that the worlds reefs will be gone in a matter of years if nothing 
is done to correct the mistakes we have all made with regards to 
stewardship of our planet.

If we take a  look at the variables involved:  water quality, over 
fishing, vessel groundings, seagrass dieoffs, urchin dieoffs, bleaching, 
coral disease, the possibility that our planet and our oceans are 
warming with subsequent melting of our polar regions and of course one 
of the biggest problems in my opinion is complete lack of concern by 
many.  Lets admit it, some people simply dont care and I think this has 
a lot to do with the state our world is in now, cultural, religious, and 
political differences also play a role here but Im not going to get into 

Anyway, Im looking forward to the challenges that this new position will 
present to me and my colleagues and I guess what Im asking for is some 
advice.  I am very concerned as many of you are as well and I would like 
to part of a new approach to management issues of not only the coral 
reefs of the world but our entire world.  I believe that education an 
outreach could play an important role and will be one of my priorities 
along with others.
Any advice would certainly be appreciated, perhaps efforts focused on 
small areas can have a spillover effect in terms of getting the public 
really involved, but I think its going to have to be a worldwide 
involvement if we really want to improve things.

 But its only a start, we have to finish, and send the right messages to 
generations of scientists coming behind us to better improve things so 
that they, and we, can perhaps begin to see positive changes taking 
place for the planet we all call home.    thanks  Craig            

Michael Risk wrote:

>Hi Phil. 
>Thanks you for crystallising the discussion, and articulating some of
>my own concerns. One of the many problems is:
>"All politics is local." (Tip O'Neil, American politician)
>It is always easier to blame the external. One of my students was in
>the back of a hall in the Keys 2-3 years ago during one of those public
>meetings, and heard a senior Florida reef manager say the decline in
>the reefs was caused by "All those Canadians driving down here every
>winter in their SUV's, making Carbon Dioxide." (True quote-no one has
>to MAKE UP things reef managers say.)
>Now, it may well be that no one should drive SUV's, but it cannot be
>said enough times: bleaching has had NOTHING TO DO with the decline of
>Florida's reefs. Everyone reading this list should repeat after me-and
>And now we see that the new kid on the block, FRRP, will focus only on
>bleaching. Something is badly wrong. We don't need more science-the
>science has spoken eloquently.
>In...2000? (help me, Walt, Phil-when was it?) I was a member of a NOAA
>panel that evaluated all the reef monitoring programs in the Florida
>Keys. (Why was there more than one, you may ask? In fact, there were
>about six.)
>Our conclusion was that monitoring had done its job. (Monitoring can
>NEVER identify causes, although a good monitoring program can allow
>selection of hypotheses.) In this case, the monitoring programs,
>especially the FMRI program, had successfully documented the regional
>mass extinction under way in the Keys. And that was the panel's
>carefully-chosen phrase: "regional mass extinction." 
>We recommended consolidation of the monitoring programs, and an
>immediate increase in funding designed to rank the various land-based
>threats, in order that action could be taken. We also recommended an
>outreach program. 
>That may be the key to the Keys. Every citizen of Florida should be
>told that:
>1. there is big trouble in the Keys, and that
>2. the causes are all local.
>The managers will be reluctant to be too assertive-after all, they have
>Big Sugar and Big God-knows-what watching them. The impetus has to be
>bottom-up. To coin a phrase.
>And we reef scientists have to learn that we score our own points at
>the expense of the ecosystem.
>On Tue, 21 Feb 2006 09:32:11 -0500
> Phil Dustan <dustanp at cofc.edu> wrote:
>>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
>>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
>>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
>>too. This is shameful. All this time we have been talking about
>>monitoring, and awareness and the house has been in full flames right
>>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
>>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
>>it and they will come mentality. There really is no point in
>>to wear a smiley face.  Looking for patches that are the remnants of
>>far greater luxuriance, without documenting (georeferencing) the
>>that are far greater, supports this form of denial.
>>	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
>>are some creative ways to reduce loading.  And there are too many
>>fishing and gathering, and  Key Largo STILL does not have a sewage 
>>system because its too expensive?  And watershed effluent is not
>>sewage……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
>>a sanctuary if there's nothing left except an economy?
>>	It’s been said by many that the coral reef science community eats
>>young.  It also seems to be good at reinventing discoveries and
>>  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
>>in losing ground. Perhaps we could institute a scale of remnancy (the
>>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
>>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
>>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?
>>				Phil
>>Phillip Dustan  Ph.D.
>>Department of Biology
>>College of Charleston
>>Charleston   SC  29424
>>(843) 953-8086 voice
>>(843) 953-5453 (Fax)
>>Coral-List mailing list
>>Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>Coral-List mailing list
>Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

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