[Coral-List] Oil palm plantation runoff and reef mortality
goreau at bestweb.net
Mon Aug 27 12:59:26 EDT 2007
Don Baker's and Achier Chung Fung Chen's comments about the large
amount of freshwater runoff into Borneio reefs from areas covered
with oil palm plantations raises some very interesting issues. Of
course it has been known for a long time that massive freshwater
discharges onto reefs can cause coral bleaching and mortality (T.
Goreau, 1963 in Jamaica, and Peter Glynn's and Carlos Goenaga's later
papers in Puerto Rico, for example), but this is much worse when it
is loaded with fertilizers, sewage, and agrochemicals.
However there is an interesting new wrinkle from a microbiological
standpoint. James Cervino and our team followed changes in large
sponge die off in New Guinea, and isolated a consortium of bacteria
from dying sponge tissue that did not occur on healthy tissue of the
same colonies. What was fascinating was that the rRNA sequencing
revealed that the putative pathogens were all very closely related to
species of bacteria widely used in sprays (some aerial) in oil palm
plantations as "good, friendly" bacteria in integrated pest
management, mainly species of Pseudomonas used against fungal
infections, and species of Bacillus used against insect pests,
including Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
Bt is widely used because it releases a crystal toxin that attacks
the membrane sodium ion transport enzyme in the stomachs of
invertebrates, causing them to die quickly from osmotic shock. The
receptor is common to almost all invertebrates, but does not occur in
vertebrates, so they are completely unaffected. Because humans,
mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes are not affected it is
regarded as "safe". However basically all insects are affected, along
with snails, and nematodes, but we could find no information about it
being tested on marine invertebrates at all. The fact that sponges
seem to be affected directly by these so called "good harmless"
bacteria (or by marine species so closely related to them that they
might have picked up their genes) implies that many other higher
marine invertebrates could too (but not fishes). Bt is widely used
around the world, and the gene for the crystal toxin is I believe
genetically engineered into many plants. The implications for the
marine environment are unexamined, but so potentially serious that
work urgently needs to be done on this. We have had to abandon this
work due to lack of funding. But it needs to be re-examined in the
light of what is being seen in Borneo. The events described in
Nonuti, Abemema, and the Maldives must have other explanations, though.
J. M. Cervino, K. Winiarski-Cervino, S.W. Polson, T.J. Goreau, & G.W.
Smith, 2006, Identification of bacteria associated with a disease
affecting the sponge Ianthella basta, in New Britain, Papua New
Guinea, MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES, 324: 139-150
Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
Global Coral Reef Alliance
37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
goreau at bestweb.net
From: Don Baker <reefpeace at yahoo.com>
Subject: [Coral-List] Fwd: Re: Mystery Event - Lankayan Island, Sulu
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Cc: Ken Chung <kenchung49 at gmail.com>, achier300 <achier300 at yahoo.com>
Message-ID: <695480.80478.qm at web58008.mail.re3.yahoo.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
The posted herein statement from the Reef Guardian/Lankayan Marine
Biologist (Ms Chung) is the most accurate account....
I stand corrected on the suspected source of the event but very
concerned at the toxic nature of the runoff from the river that is 26
Km from the island itself..and this nows leads into another issue.
The Issue => Land runoff from existing and expanding oil palm estates
that have virtually covered all of North Borneo less the high grounds.
The independent oil palm mills are not regulated with any viable form
of effect environmental enforcement within Sabah itself. (Again..the
key word here is enforcement) They wait until there is heavy rainfall
and only then do they dump their retaining ponds with the gross
processing mill effluents.
The Gov. State & Fed levels of environmental regulation and
enforcement seem to be controlled by their receiving deep pockets and
very little effort is done to control the pollution itself. And I
challenge these entities with the Lankayan Event!
Biogas and the biofuel syndrome may be causing the demise of all of
Just what does this mean for the future of coral reefs worldwide if
the tropical forests are chopped and replanted with mono-crops?? The
lag periods between chopped, cleared ground until replanted, regrowth
is the most critical period for reasons of soil and chemical runoff.
This is also true for existing plantations that have to chop old oil
palms down to replant new trees.
Date: Sun, 26 Aug 2007 03:10:33 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Chung, F.C." <achier300 at yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Mystery Event - Lankayan Island, Sulu Sea
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Message-ID: <267494.94904.qm at web61218.mail.yahoo.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
The mortality of shallow corals on reef flat at Lankayan Island few
2007) back were duel to input of river water from mainland. I was on
to witness the changes of the water quality during the event. Lankayan
Islands is located about 26 Kilometers
away from the mainland. In last January, rough sea and unusual rain
fall had caused flooded in few places near Sandakan.
The inputs of river water to Lankayan were observed continuously more
days bringing debris like bamboo, Rhizophora seeds, sargassum mat.
changing from clear to greenish and then to brownish (day 10). After
11 days, dead
sea cucumbers and sea urchins were washed ashore, giant clams fleshes
floating on surface. The brown water colour was first observed in
it had suspected contents harmful substance from river that possible
the coral, giant clam and etc. However no laboratory test was done on
Basic water quality parameters were measured during the
event, we found that the water salinity was low (average 25ppt,
minimum 17 ppt)
on both surface and in 5 m. Average water temperature was 27.8C and
fish was observed during the event. On day 12, we did a survey dive,
colour was green but clear and water temperature around 27C. The
from 4m and above were death, majority Acropora
sp, Seriatopora sp, blue coral and others. A short paper regarding these
phenomena is in press. Click on link below to see photographs taken
during the event.
Achier/ Chung Fung Chen
Reef Guardian Sdn Bhd
Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA)
Email: achier300 at yahoo.com
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