[Coral-List] the dismal and erroneous notion that we've already lost

Martin Moe martin_moe at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 3 10:46:46 EDT 2006

Les, I very much agree with you. Human civilization on
our little Planet Ocean has reached the point,
especially in the last 500 years, where we are
negatively impacting the broad ecological balance that
has evolved over great expanses of time (meaning loss
of biological diversity, eutrophication, and rapid
climate change) all over the globe, some environments
more than others.  Can we fix it? Maybe, maybe
not—it’s actually more a matter of the development of
the collective will of humanity to repair the ecology
than development of the scientific understanding and
technology to do so.

But where coral reefs of Florida and the Caribbean are
concerned, restoration of the ecology, including
repair of the balance between herbivory and coral
growth is essential. Even if we are able to reduce
anthropogenic nutrients, unsustainable fishing and
recreational uses, excess dissolved carbon dioxide,
and even elevated seawater temperatures, if the
historical balance between algae and coral is not
restored, algal flats will eventually replace coral
reefs. And this is something that could be done now,
even under the current stresses that impact the coral
reefs. I am of course, referring to the restoration of
the keystone herbivore of the southwestern north
Atlantic, the sea urchin Diadema antillarum. It is
well documented that when Diadema return to the reefs
in large numbers, the phase shift from coral to algae
is reversed. There is much we don’t yet understand
about this fundamental ecological balance, but
aggressive research projects aimed at furthering this
understanding and developing the technology and
techniques for restoration of this keystone herbivore
should be pursued.  If we do this now, we can reduce
the rate of coral reef decline and hopefully buy the
time we need to fix the huge problems. OK, so I’m an

Martin Moe

--- Les Kaufman <lesk at bu.edu> wrote:

> Picking up the thread of an earlier polylogue....
> Some folks are saying that no matter what we do, the
> reef-building  
> corals alive today are ultimately (and sooner than
> later) goners.
> I will not argue with this.  What bleaching doesn't
> get disease will.
> Perhaps we should be less concerned about what will
> kill the reef- 
> building corals of the world.  We already have an
> answer to that  
> question, though it could possibly be usurped by an
> asteroid.
> Where I'm coming from is that we ought to concern
> ourselves with the  
> conditions necessary to maximize the regenerative
> potential of coral  
> reefs, since that is where our primary hopes lie.
> It will not stop them from degrading horribly, like
> what happens in  
> all those movies when anything from water (Oz's
> WWOW) to  
> nannoparticles is dumped either on the first
> gorgeous dumb blonde or  
> the villains at various points along the plot line,
> causing that  
> characters to dissolve grotesquely.
> However, we also know that many ecological
> communities, including  
> coral reefs, can exist in a state comparable to what
> Bob Buddemeier  
> (I think...or somebody) instructed us to call "coral
> communities".   
> In other words, ratty, scuzzy excuses for what
> things could look  
> like, but with most of the species still eking it
> out in bits,  
> corners, and crevices.  Think Florida.
> Let's call them dissemblages.  If that means they're
> lying, then so  
> be it, that works, too.
> What we've got to do is learn how to orchestrate
> dissemblages so they  
> organize themselves back into lush reefs, forests,
> deserts,  
> whatever.  For us, reefs.
> The next step after dissemblage is a spiral of
> irreversible  
> degradation through extinction.  This can be
> stretched out over quite  
> the while.  Eventually things go so far that
> reassembly into a  
> recognizable and valuable form is no longer a likely
> outcome.
> As bad as reefs are today, especially in the north
> Atlantic, we are  
> still very much at the more or less intact (in terms
> of species pool)  
> dissemblage state of things.
> This is where the issue of ocean acidification comes
> in.
> Resolved: The importance of elevated atmospheric CO2
> to coral reefs  
> lies not in the possibility that it will kill them
> outright, but  
> rather in the likelihood that it will greatly
> compromise their  
> ability to recover.
> Commence debate.
> Les Kaufman
> Professor of Biology
> Boston University Marine Program
> and
> Senior PI
> Marine Management Area Science
> Conservation International
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

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