[Coral-List] Unsustainable Development

Christopher Paul Jury jurychri at msu.edu
Thu Mar 16 12:09:02 EST 2006

I wholeheartedly agree that this development would likely destroy the reef 
and that reef balls are not the answer, but I'm concernced that the nutrient 
dynamics on reefs are being oversimplified. While the paradigm in the past 
has been that any sort of nutrient enrichment is deleterious to reefs, 
experience and research has shown that this is not the case. This issue has 
been reviewed by Szmant (2002. Nutrient enrichment on coral reefs: Is it a 
major cause of coral reef decline? ESTUARIES 25 (4B): 743-766.) The ENCORE 
project, for the most part, failed to produce the expected results of 
nutrient enrichment (e.g. increased macroalgal biomass) in nutrient 
conditions comparable even to polluted reefs. Falter, Atkinson, et al. have 
demonstrated the uptake of dissolved nutrients to reef benthos to be largely 
a mass transfer limited process (e.g. Falter JL, Atkinson MJ, Coimbra CFM. 
2005.Effects of surface roughness and oscillatory flow on the dissolution of 
plaster forms: Evidence for nutrient mass transfer to coral reef 
communities. LIMNOLOGY AND OCEANOGRAPHY 50 (1): 246-254.) and they have also 
demonstrated this rate is relatively slow. Thus, the benthos are barely able 
to take-up DIN and DIP from the water before it flows away to sea. In 
addition, the importance of herbivory in controlling algal growth and 
abundance has been demonstrated in numerous studies. It appears that both 
bottom-up and top-down controls on macroalgal abundance exist, though 
macroalgae rarely increase even under nutrient enrichment when sufficient 
herbivores are present. 

The more likely causes for decline of the reef would be stress due to 
sedimentation (leading to mortality) and an inability of the reef to recover 
after disturbance. Turf and macroalgae species are usually the first 
colonists (besides microbes) on freshly killed coral surfaces. These can 
then effectively trap sediment (Stamski RE, Field ME. 2006. Characterization 
of sediment trapped by macroalgae on a Hawaiian reef flat.ESTUARINE COASTAL 
AND SHELF SCIENCE 66 (1-2): 211-216.) which provides and inhospitable 
enironment for the settlement of planulae. Thus, any damage done to the reef 
becomes irreparable due to a lack of recruitment. 

While there are several well-documented cases of eutrophication leading to 
degredation of reefs (e.g. Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii) it is an oversimplification 
to say that any nurtient enrichment at all will prove deleterious. Nutrient 
dynamics on reefs are more complex than what can be explained stictly by 
nutrient concentrations or nutrient loading. But again, this project would, 
with little doubt, kill the reef in a short time. Let us all hope it is 

Best regards, 

Chris Jury 


James M Cervino writes: 

> Mr Barber and Bourke, 
> Your intentions are evident as you are simply playing  into the hands 
> of the Developer to obtain this account to place concrete "Balls" 
> along the limestone coast where this proposed golf course will go. 
> However, if you were to post a note on the coral-list as speaking out 
> against this development while wanting to DONATE your "concrete 
> balls" to the environmental group for coastal erosion-protection, 
> then your intentions would be justified as environmentally 
> respectable. Are you aware that your "Balls" will be quickly 
> overgrown with Macro-algae once this golf course is implemented ? 
> There is an example of an artificial reef that someone placed close 
> to shore where mangroves were clear cut.  These structures were 
> placed in the sediment within 10-15 feet depth of water and are 
> completely smothered with macro-algae which should serve as a model 
> for you; that surrounding this island with "concrete balls" will 
> simply not protect the living remaining 100-200 year old corals that 
> are already stressed. 
> At least the environmental group on Guana is pushing to protect the 
> remaining living tissue residing on the surfaces of these coral 
> skeletons as they seem to understand what "critical levels" of 
> nutrients mean in an oligotrophic reef system. All they are trying to 
> do is stop this small  island from being over developed with 300 
> condo units and a golf course. No sound person would back such a plan 
> on an island that is approximately 2-3km in length. (one can walk 
> around this island in 30min). 
> Any logical scientist will tell you that this development will 
> fertilize the reef and increase the abundance of macro algae species 
> within this habitat, thereby threatening this already thermally 
> stressed coral reef ecosystem. Have your and your scientific advisors 
> reviewed this golf course proposal? I doubt it, as you would then be 
> aware that they are going to dredge this area as well which will 
> further add stress to this reef. Mr. Barber; there are many 
> publications out there that show how sediment loading can effect 
> coral physiology, here is one such publication that I can forward to 
> you (Peters, E. 1984.  A survey of cellular reactions to 
> environmental stress and disease in Caribbean scleractinian corals. 
> Helgol. Meeresunters. 37: 113-137. Your so called environmentally 
> conscious Reef Ball Team may not have an understanding of the 
> sensitive cellular mechanisms and physiology of symbiotic reef 
> building corals.  If you did you would not be trying to help this 
> developer in any way. 
> You may not be aware of this as, coral reefs are known to be the most 
> nutrient sensitive ecosystems. Coral reefs can become  "eutrophic", 
> that is, overgrown by weedy algae, at nutrient levels that are so low 
> that they would indicate nutrient starvation in any other ecosystem. 
> This golf course will be a point source and will create hazardous 
> high levels of nutrients into this coastal zone. Any nutrient 
> drainage into this area will cause the reefs to deteriorate further. 
> Here are some papers that you can read about reef stress before you 
> just stamp your letter of approval onto this project (P. Bell,1992, 
> Eutrophication and coral reefs: some examples in the Great Barrier 
> Reef lagoon, Water Research, 26: 553-568; B. Lapointe, & M. Clark, 
> 1992, Nutrient inputs from the watershed and coastal eutrophication 
> in the Florida Keys, Estuaries, 15: 465-476; B. Lapointe, in press, 
> Eutrophication thresholds for macroalgal overgrowth of coral reefs, 
> in K. Thacker (Ed.) Protecting Jamaica's Coral Reefs: Water quality 
> issues). 
> Dear Mr. Bob Bourke Environmental Scientist (ex-marine biologist), do 
> you call this a sound project? 
> You said that: "Concepts of Low Impact Development and active 
> management using primarily  groundwater and runoff monitoring 
> feedback programs are effective in many locations. 
> We say that we have no time to monitor anything!  The Discovery & Co. 
> EIA plans are to dredge up a portion of the 1 mile island, dump the 
> sediment onto the surrounding reef and add soil fill combined with 
> quartz sand for this golf course.  This limestone substrate will act 
> as a permeable filter for the nutrients to leach out into the reef 
> thereby feeding the invasive species. Here is some information for 
> you Mr Bourke regarding levels of nutrients that are critical in a 
> living reef system: 
> 1.0 micromoles per litre of nitrogen as nitrate and ammonia
> 0.1 micromoles per litre of phosphorous as ortho-phosphate and organophosphate.
> These values are in the molecular concentration units used by 
> chemists and oceanographers. In the weight units more often used in 
> the wastewater literature these translate into:
> Nitrogen: 0.014 ppm N or 0.040 ppm NO3
> Phosphorous 0.003 ppm P or 0.007 ppm PO4 
> I hope that more people will speak out against this type of 
> development given the state of the worlds reefs are in today. If we 
> cannot convince the US administration to control atmospheric carbon 
> dioxide that is responsible for thermal stress in corals at least we 
> can help the peoples of Guana protect their reef from a developer 
> that cares nothing about the corals and the fish that live within 
> this habitat.  
> -- 
> **************************************************
> Dr. James M. Cervino, MS, Ph.D.
> Marine Biologist
> Department of Biological & Health Sciences
> Pace University New York NYC
> Phone: (917) 620-5287
> Web site: http://www.globalcoral.org
> ***************************************************
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