9ICRS debate on coral reefs and climate change

Nerilie Abram nerilie.abram at anu.edu.au
Mon Nov 6 19:46:05 EST 2000

Dear Ove,

We were presenters at the conference in Bali (A9: sea level and A17: proxy 
records) and we attended the debate that you hosted on coral reefs and 
climate change. We would like to thank you for organising the debate and 
would also like to follow up on the response to the question "Does climate 
change represent a risk to coral reefs? If so, what are the three most 
worrying variables).

The three most worrying variables were recorded during the debate as 
temperature rise, CO2 rise and sea level rise. We fully agree that 
temperature rise and CO2 rise are serious and potentially devastating 
threats to the future of coral reefs, however we firmly believe that sea 
level rise is not a threat to coral reefs. Geological evidence in fact 
suggests quite the opposite, and under the currently projected rates of 
future sea level rise coral reefs around the world should easily be able to 
keep pace with sea level rise and would most likely flourish in the new 
"accommodation space" provided for reef growth. An example can be observed 
on Heron Island, where the construction of a weir resulted in an artificial 
and immediate sea level rise on the order of metres and has been 
accompanied by a marked increase in coral reef growth. Of course, given the 
stresses on reefs by other factors their ability to respond to rising sea 
level may not be as great as that preserved in the geological record, 
however it is these other factors which need to be addressed as the threats 
to the future of coral reefs and not sea level rise. During the debate the 
aspect of the future of island nations was used as reason to keep sea level 
rise on the list of worrying variables. The vulnerability of many nations 
to sea level rise is undisputable and a very serious concern in climate 
change debates, however the question being dealt with in this debate is the 
threats to coral reefs. Our fear is that if a statement is sent out from 
the scientists of the 9ICRS saying that sea level rise is a threat to the 
future of coral reefs then this will undermine the scientific merit of the 
rest of the statement and may threaten what this debate was meant to 
achieve: a call to action to help save the coral reefs of the world.

We would like to suggest that sea level rise be replace with "other 
anthropogenic stresses" and that this include factors such as 
over-exploitation, land use practises, pollution and even global population 
growth. Not only do we believe that these factors are a much more serious 
and immediate threat to the future of coral reefs than sea level rise, but 
this also provides a number of management avenues which are not available 
with the list as it currently stands. Temperature rise, CO2 rise (and also 
sea level rise) are issues which need to be dealt with globally and over 
very long time frames. Many anthropogenic stresses can be dealt with 
locally and have solutions which can be implemented in relatively short 
periods of time. We would like to suggest that the statement that is given 
by the scientists from 9ICRS lists the three most worrying risks to corals 
reefs as 1) temperature rise, 2) CO2 rise and 3) other anthropogenic 
stresses, and that it highlights the need for both local and global action 
over a range of time scales from immediate to long term.

We would also like to follow up on the suggestion that the questions dealt 
with at the debate should be posted on the coral list. We think that this 
is an excellent idea and would allow for a broader cross section of 
scientists to contribute valuable ideas and perspectives to this important 
statement. Thank you again for organising the debate and I hope that it 
will result in strong statement which inspires people throughout the world 
to help to preserve the world's coral reefs.

Nerilie Abram and Helen McGregor

PhD research students
Research School of Earth Sciences
The Australian National University
Canberra 0200 Australia

Ph      +61 2 6249 5177
Ph      +61 2 6249 3407
Fax     +61 2 6249 3683

nerilie.abram at anu.edu.au
helen.mcgregor at anu.edu.au

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/pipermail/coral-list-old/attachments/20001107/ea41a755/attachment.html 

More information about the Coral-list-old mailing list