[Coral-List] Coral Reef condition discussion

Steven Miller smiller at gate.net
Wed Feb 22 11:15:20 EST 2006

All politics is local? 

Tell that to Acropora and other coral species (and Diadema too) after 
Caribbean-wide waves of disease and bleaching helped push the system in 
Florida, already at the northern limit geographically of coral 
distribution in this part of the world, to - or over - the edge.  
Alina's response hit all the high points about why it's necessary to 
consider complexity (ecologically and I would add politically).  Much of 
this was previously addressed in a series of letters published in 
Science Magazine (Science 17 June 2005 308) including a summary of work 
already accomplished or underway related to management of water quality 
in the Keys. 

To try and advance this discussion (without writing anything lengthy) 
rather than dwell too much on the negative, I think it's important to 
ask, "Is there any good news on the coral reef front?"  Well, mostly 
not.  BUT, we know we can do better with MPAs to help manage resource 
use (fishing, boating, diving) and to - at the very least - watch 
(research) what happens to fish and benthic communities when no-take 
protection is enforced.  I like the idea that a 75 pound grouper is more 
valuable as a tourist attraction than on dinner plates, but some might 
argue that point.  And many don't know this, but there remain 
spectacular places in the Keys with high cover and corals in relatively 
good condition, just not offshore where so much was previously 
considered in "good" condition because large stands of Acropora 
persisted in the days before bleaching and disease.  Where are these 
sites?  They are found near s;yc0bhokr npobno rouubs and xoyub=- hpbsl 
ngpui.  Sorry, that was too easy, but the sites are real.

Also, we know that Acropora is a fast-growing species and that under the 
right set of circumstances we could see massive proliferation over 
relatively short time scales, maybe even sufficient to  match sea level 
rise that will result from global warming.  Of course, coastal areas 
will also flood and that will degrade water quality, which might prevent 
more immediate coral growth - there's that complexity thing again. 

So what's my take home message?  The sky might be falling - remember the 
chicken little thread so many years ago?  You can duck and cover or you 
can do what you can to try and make things better.  Personally, I think 
we are in trouble because environment (and not just coral reefs, but 
also our air and water and if some have their way endangered species 
too) is not a political issue these days.  How does it get political?  
Environmentalism needs to become a social movement the way it was in the 
1960s and 1970s.  That will only happen when a thousand grassroots 
efforts at the local level merge and become something bigger.  In that 
regard, I agree that all politics is local.

Best regards.

Steven Miller, Ph.D.
Research Professor
UNC Wilmington

And a possibly relevant plug... see the trailer for a new movie about 
the Evolution and Intelligent Design Circus at www.flockofdodos.com, a 
feature documentary written and directed by former marine biologist Dr. 
Randy Olson (and exec produced by me).  The movie is ultimately about 
communication of science in today's media landscape.  Coral reef 
scientists have much to learn about communicating for the benefit of 
coral reefs and not personal agendas or career advancement (my personal 
and I'm sure provocative opinion, and not directed to the current thread).

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