[Coral-List] the dismal and erroneous notion that we've already lost
lesk at bu.edu
Mon Oct 2 17:08:00 EDT 2006
Picking up the thread of an earlier polylogue....
Some folks are saying that no matter what we do, the reef-building
corals alive today are ultimately (and sooner than later) goners.
I will not argue with this. What bleaching doesn't get disease will.
Perhaps we should be less concerned about what will kill the reef-
building corals of the world. We already have an answer to that
question, though it could possibly be usurped by an asteroid.
Where I'm coming from is that we ought to concern ourselves with the
conditions necessary to maximize the regenerative potential of coral
reefs, since that is where our primary hopes lie.
It will not stop them from degrading horribly, like what happens in
all those movies when anything from water (Oz's WWOW) to
nannoparticles is dumped either on the first gorgeous dumb blonde or
the villains at various points along the plot line, causing that
characters to dissolve grotesquely.
However, we also know that many ecological communities, including
coral reefs, can exist in a state comparable to what Bob Buddemeier
(I think...or somebody) instructed us to call "coral communities".
In other words, ratty, scuzzy excuses for what things could look
like, but with most of the species still eking it out in bits,
corners, and crevices. Think Florida.
Let's call them dissemblages. If that means they're lying, then so
be it, that works, too.
What we've got to do is learn how to orchestrate dissemblages so they
organize themselves back into lush reefs, forests, deserts,
whatever. For us, reefs.
The next step after dissemblage is a spiral of irreversible
degradation through extinction. This can be stretched out over quite
the while. Eventually things go so far that reassembly into a
recognizable and valuable form is no longer a likely outcome.
As bad as reefs are today, especially in the north Atlantic, we are
still very much at the more or less intact (in terms of species pool)
dissemblage state of things.
This is where the issue of ocean acidification comes in.
Resolved: The importance of elevated atmospheric CO2 to coral reefs
lies not in the possibility that it will kill them outright, but
rather in the likelihood that it will greatly compromise their
ability to recover.
Professor of Biology
Boston University Marine Program
Marine Management Area Science
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