[Coral-List] Reef Restoration Aesthetics

Curtis Kruer kruer at 3rivers.net
Sat Feb 28 13:56:36 EST 2004


As I believe open discussion is useful and valuable in conservation 
issues involving public resources and public funds I'll add to the 
comments I received to my previous note.

Just to be clear - my definition here of a "natural" reef would be the 
condition of the reef, its physical structure, complexity, biota, etc. 
just before the large vessel slammed into it.  To pretend (without 
evidence) that we can restore even that previous condition I believe, as 
I said before, is presumptuous and dangerous.

And, I presume this is the only type  of reef "restoration" (resulting 
from physical damage) that public funds (and fines, penalties and 
settlement $$) are being spent on.  To try to restore reefs and hard 
coral cover impacted by climate change, ocean warming, coral diseases, 
algal overgrowth, overfishing, diver and fishing gear impacts, anchor 
damage and the like without removing the underlying causes of the 
impacts is inappropriate and will ultimately prove fruitless.

And all the while nearshore seagrass and mangrove habitats in south 
Florida, the Keys, and the Caribbean continue to be degraded and lost to 
  boating impacts, runaway development, shoreline construction, mangrove 
removal, stormwater runoff, sedimentation, deteriorated water quality, 
and the like.

Just some thoughts.

Curtis Kruer
kruer at 3rivers.net


Robert Buddemeir writes:

I am replying to both without the list, since this is beginning to get 

I fundamentally agree with Curtis, except that I suspect he is referring 
to 'past natural,' or 'pristine.'  If we turn things loose and protect 
them in the future we arguably get what is "natural" for their present 
environment and surroundings (however altered those may be from 
pristine).  FYI, I paste in below my response to a closely related 
message and thread (posted on the list Feb 27):

"Without taking a position on reef restoration in general or by any 
particular method, I would like to pick up on a key comment by Gregor:

"A coral restoration system implies that the ecosystem will be returned 
to its original state before disturbance."

To me that sounds like a permanent commitment to tending the site as a 
cultivated garden.  Essentially every reef site today is in an altered 
and fairly rapidly changing climatic and biogeochemical environment, and 
the biological environments (in the sense of the size and distribution 
of the potentially contributory breeding population in the surroundings) 
have changed and will change in many or most cases.  While replacement 
of the original ecosystem with some sort of related surrogate (i.e., 
coral-reef community) is often not unreasonable, I think the expectation 
of  "return to its original state" in any detailed sense (including such 
basic features as % cover) is sufficiently unrealistic to assure 
failure. At some very basic level, almost every reef community we are 
looking at now is either a relict or a transitional state, viewed from a 
decade-scale perspective..

Gregor's cost-benefit and resource allocation points are well-taken, but 
to them I would add "Is the probable (as opposed to ideally desired) 
outcome likely to be worth the cost?"

Bob Buddemeier

PS (General): If you haven't otherwise heard, there is a new report on 
coral reefs and global climate change available for download at 
http://www.pewclimate.org/ -- the underpinnings for my viewpoint are 
presented in that. "

Thank you for your input. I suppose I meant "rehabilitated to a more 
natural state" - something with living organisms vs. an artificial reef. 
I realize it would be close to a miracle to get a coral reef back to 
it's natural state, prior to anthropogenic influence.


Curtis Kruer wrote:


One of my suggestions would be that you don't pretend that a reef can be 
"rehabilitated to a natural state."  That's very presumptuous and not 
close to being true.

Curtis Kruer
kruer at 3rivers.net
Jessica Tallman wrote:
> Dear Coral List, 
> I am also working on a section of Bill Precht’s book on coral reef restoration. I am writing an overview of the aesthetics of restoration. Funding issues often limit the amount of attention that can be paid to this and biological success should be of utmost importance, however, is there much demand for an aesthetically pleasing dive site? I am wondering if anyone has come up with solutions to aesthetics for the interim, before a reef is rehabilitated to a natural state. Please let me know of any suggestions you have. 
> Thank you, 
> Jessica Tallman
> mailjtall at yahoo.com
> (781) 724-9014
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