[Coral-List] Heat;light, food, and bleaching, continued

Michael Risk riskmj at univmail.cis.mcmaster.ca
Thu Jun 1 08:12:23 EDT 2006

Hi Tom.

Thank you for those kind words-although telling the -list that "most of
the papers are garbage except those by Mike Risk" (sic) is perhaps an
exaggeration, and is without doubt a comment that will come back to
haunt us both. I insist I am quite capable of producing garbage.

Your main point, I think (as one whose hair long since turned grey), is
well-taken. Rather than stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone
before, coral reef ecology sometimes seems to prefer reinventing
several wheels. I have no easy solution. In an ideal world,
grant-review panels would be objective, and sort for originality;
manuscript reviewers would be familiar with pre-existing literature,
and would reject work that was not original. Perhaps some of the blame
may be laid at the feet of an academic system in which one's income
depends on quantity over quality.

You may be interested in a little paper from 2003 (Marine Geology 202:
71-78, "Smoke signals from corals.")

I was in Indonesia during the 1997 "haze" event, which was caused by
the Suharto government (plus some small land-holders) setting fires on
Borneo to clear canefields and "vacant" land. The smoke, which
spin-doctors quickly morphed into "haze", covered much of Indonesia,
Singapore and Malaysia, creating a public health problem of some
magnitude. I recall taking the train from Bogor to Jakarta, and the
horizontal visibility was sometimes <100 metres. Everybody except the
unprepared "belander" was wearing masks.

It occurred to me that this plume of smoke would shade the corals. Make
a long story short: corals under the haze shifted their metabolism
towards more heterotrophy, then shifted back again to autotrophy when
the haze had passed. (One needs a zillion analyses to show this.) 

Another example of the plasticity of these critters. Of interest is the
possibility of retrospective determination of similar metabolic shifts,
via skeletal analyses.


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