[Coral-List] Resilience and sustainability

Precht, Bill Bprecht at pbsj.com
Wed Mar 8 15:07:15 EST 2006

To all:

I didn't mean for my message to be an either/or one.  It certainly was
not my intent nor is it my view to abandon local issues from any
management strategy.  Managing local stressors is critically important.
In fact, most reef management policies that have been implemented to
date have been set ad hoc in response to local issues.  For Florida, the
installation of mooring buoys came as the result of both scientists and
the local stakeholders coming to grip with the damage caused by boats
anchoring on reefs.  The installation of navigation aids and RECON Buoys
to prevent large vessel groundings came as a result of numerous
catastrophic grounding incidents.  As well, the water quality issues I
noted in my previous post are being addressed also in response to known
local pollution sources.  The implementation of these projects will
improve water quality throughout south Florida and will eventually have
a beneficial effect on the reefs.  Local restoration efforts are also
critically important to improving reef condition including, as Martin
Moe notes, increasing the numbers of herbivores - especially Diadema.
However, we need to come to grips with why Diadema disappeared in the
first place - a pandemic disease in 1983-84.

In Mike Risk's most recent post he notes that 50% of the reefs in the
Caribbean were affected in the years and decades before bleaching became
a major issue. While this this true; >90% of the acroporids in the
Caribbean were decimated by a pandemic epizootic (white band disease)
between the mid 1970s and 1990 (see Gladfelter 1982 and Aronson & Precht
2001). What then are the reasons for these regional, not local, causes
of catastrophic-scale mortality events?

The point is that all the best local management practices can do nothing
to stop pandemic diseases, increases in sea surface temperature leading
to coral bleaching, increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes,
increases in the rate of sea level rise and so on.  This is a
politically tough challenge (and debate as we have witnessed) but one
that clearly needs to be addressed.  Failure to do so will render most
local projects, good or bad, big or small, moot in our lifetime.

I'm sure there will be more discussion to follow...


Bill Precht
-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Martin Moe
Sent: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 10:51 AM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Resilience and sustainability

Hi All

I don't completely agree with Bill Pricht. Now Bill is a "real" coral
reef scientist and I greatly admire and respect his work, and I've
learned a great deal from reading the papers that he and Steven Miller
and other coral reef scientists have produced. But Bill said to "Think
globally and act globally" and that's good and very important for people
in a position to be able to do that, to do just that. But to draw an
analogy, most folks that go out to their car in the morning, compact or
SUV, and find that the car won't start because the badly designed
carburetor is clogged don't rush back in to start an international
campaign on the internet to get the manufacturer to fix the design of
the carburetor (or to change our mode of personal transportation to a
base of hydrogen, biodiesel, or compressed air). No, first they fix
their own car. And here in South Florida (and the Bahamas) we have to do
everything we can to fix our own reefs as soon as we can. We can't allow
a great and important, but international requirement for environmental
reform; prevent us from doing what we can to repair our own local
problems with the best effort we can expend.

We have seen on this thread that many reefs all over the world are in
trouble, and some are not, or at least are not in "big" trouble at this
time, and in each situation, climate change, bleaching, overfishing,
herbivore loss, dynamite fishing, sedimentation, and nutrient loading,
the impacts on each reef area are different and the response of the reef
to the stressors is also different. The point is that each reef and each
large reef ecosystem has its own constellation of life forms that make
up its ecology and determine its own response to the elements that
affect it, and each reef has to be considered locally as well as
globally. It is patently obvious that the reefs of Florida, the Bahamas,
and the Caribbean have been suffering from a lack of herbivores since
the loss of the Diadema urchins in 1983-4. The Caribbean in most areas
has also lost herbivorous fish to the native fisheries but that is not
the case in Florida. There is no great fishery for parrotfish and
surgeonfish.  In our case, it was the loss of the Diadema that allowed
macro algae to proliferate and reduce or prevent corals from
withstanding the onslaught of disease, climate change, and anthropogenic

So of course is it far too simplistic to reason that returning Diadema
to the reefs or at least researching the possibilities for assisting
their return will make everything "all better now", but this is
something that can be done locally, and if successful will most likely
make our reefs more resistant to global scale stressors and improve the
biodiversity and condition of our reefs. So I will continue to
encourage, and argue and work for projects that will research ways to
hasten the return of Diadema to South Florida reefs.

Martin Moe

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