[Coral-List] Remnancy vs Resiliency: Part 2

Jim Hendee Jim.Hendee at noaa.gov
Sat Feb 25 07:16:55 EST 2006

Hiya, Phil,

Concerning your quote:

"Lots of us have struggled with this idea and there are some very good
protocols, programs, and ideas floating. An index of ecosystem vitality
comes to mind."

I think this is a more tractable approach when you consider finite
financial resources and manhours (peoplehours?) to throw at the problem.
 What I'm getting at is that defining an organism or ecosystem in terms
of the "normal" environment (i.e., that which promotes optimal vitality)
may be an easier way to present the problem to the public.  For
instance, look at the Goreau and Hayes (1994) concept and Al Strong's 
presentation and further elucidation of the concept to the public on how
HotSpots (unseasonably high sea temperatures) coincide with bleaching
events: it's an easier way for the public to understand large-scale
environmental stress and the result, rather than trying to explain all
the actual physiology behind the phenomenon, which is still not totally

I believe Basset Maguire had in mind a "niche response structure" idea
years ago which described organisms as a response to their environment,
and if I remember correctly, he tried to quantify that for selected
species.  Maybe the same approach is valid for coral ecosystems.  That
may be easier than trying to define "ecosystem vitality" in terms of
each organism's "health," a difficult concept to quantify.  Defining
"ecosystem health" would seem to be fraught with unending debate on what
constitutes each contributing organism's normal (uncompromised?)
lifecycle.  (Again, I'm not saying we shouldn't try to undertake such
research, and unending debate is what all science needs and likes--I'm
mainly trying to get at a way to awaken the public and policy makers.)

Anyway, I would like to hear of the approaches you mention, and I would
vote that defining the recent historical and current physical
environment for each major coral reef area as one of the 8-10 action
items you mention.  This should be a fundamental part of any "ecosystem
vitality index," at least in my mind.  This would also give us a
platform from which to say, "This is how it was when corals were doing
well, and this is how it is now, and corals are not doing well," without
having to explain the physiology of why this is so.  This would also
give us a solid comparison basis for understanding why one reef
ecosystem in the Pacific is doing swimmingly (so to speak), and another
is not.  I think the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and the Interntational
Coral Reef Initiative and NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and
other groups have already listed this as a goal, but I think it's an
important one for your list.  In fact, if you cross-compare a lot of the
conservation groups' action items, I think you could probably come up
with 8-10 items in a prioritized list most would agree upon.  In other
words, a lot of people are already working on these problems, and it is
extremely difficult to make decisions on what activities to fund, but I
think what you are also saying is we need to shake the tree a little
harder.  I have no suggestion on how to do that!

[Mea culpa:  We at NOAA/AOML are already compiling physical
environmental data and establishing environmental indices, so this whole
rap of course appears self-serving and provincially contrived.  Hey,
it's all I know, and at least I'm being honest about it!]

Okay, that makes 4 cents from me... :)


----- Original Message -----
From: Phil Dustan <dustanp at cofc.edu>
Date: Friday, February 24, 2006 12:23 pm
Subject: [Coral-List] Remnancy vs Resiliency: Part 2

> Dear Colleagues,
>    Again, thanks to everyone for participating in this most 
> interesting 
> thread. It also reminds me...[etc.]

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