[Coral-List] Resilience and sustainability

Martin Moe martin_moe at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 8 10:51:28 EST 2006

Hi All

I don’t completely agree with Bill Pricht. Now Bill is
a “real” coral reef scientist and I greatly admire and
respect his work, and I’ve learned a great deal from
reading the papers that he and Steven Miller and other
coral reef scientists have produced. But Bill said to
“Think globally and act globally” and that’s good and
very important for people in a position to be able to
do that, to do just that. But to draw an analogy, most
folks that go out to their car in the morning, compact
or SUV, and find that the car won’t start because the
badly designed carburetor is clogged don’t rush back
in to start an international campaign on the internet
to get the manufacturer to fix the design of the
carburetor (or to change our mode of personal
transportation to a base of hydrogen, biodiesel, or
compressed air). No, first they fix their own car. And
here in South Florida (and the Bahamas) we have to do
everything we can to fix our own reefs as soon as we
can. We can’t allow a great and important, but
international requirement for environmental reform;
prevent us from doing what we can to repair our own
local problems with the best effort we can expend.

We have seen on this thread that many reefs all over
the world are in trouble, and some are not, or at
least are not in “big” trouble at this time, and in
each situation, climate change, bleaching,
overfishing, herbivore loss, dynamite fishing,
sedimentation, and nutrient loading, the impacts on
each reef area are different and the response of the
reef to the stressors is also different. The point is
that each reef and each large reef ecosystem has its
own constellation of life forms that make up its
ecology and determine its own response to the elements
that affect it, and each reef has to be considered
locally as well as globally. It is patently obvious
that the reefs of Florida, the Bahamas, and the
Caribbean have been suffering from a lack of
herbivores since the loss of the Diadema urchins in
1983-4. The Caribbean in most areas has also lost
herbivorous fish to the native fisheries but that is
not the case in Florida. There is no great fishery for
parrotfish and surgeonfish.  In our case, it was the
loss of the Diadema that allowed macro algae to
proliferate and reduce or prevent corals from
withstanding the onslaught of disease, climate change,
and anthropogenic stressors. 

So of course is it far too simplistic to reason that
returning Diadema to the reefs or at least researching
the possibilities for assisting their return will make
everything “all better now”, but this is something
that can be done locally, and if successful will most
likely make our reefs more resistant to global scale
stressors and improve the biodiversity and condition
of our reefs. So I will continue to encourage, and
argue and work for projects that will research ways to
hasten the return of Diadema to South Florida reefs.

Martin Moe

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