[Coral-List] fiddling symphonic hypotheses while cities of coral crumble.

Judith Lang/Lynton Land JandL at rivnet.net
Thu Oct 12 14:18:43 EDT 2006

I agree with you, but we shouldn't just be communicating to seaside  
communities when we're in the field--that's the easy part!

Wherever we call home, amongst our routine neighbours, we need to  
spread the word about being more responsible and taking better care  
of the Earth, with a focus on whatever is locally most egregious–be  
it driving, air-conditioning, fertilizing, herbiciding, fish  
consumption, water usage, prescription pill popping, etc. Each of our  
home communities is a little different in its rate and type of  
overconsumption and in its rate of human population growth.

To reach our neighbours, we have to be willing to establish contacts  
with allies wherever we can find them– in religious, sports,  
military, political, service, hunting, gardening, nature, etc.,  
groups and clubs. Since that takes a lot of time and effort, and  
creates local visibility, sadly I must concur with Les that it is not  
advisable for junior professionals unless outreach of this sort is  
part of their job description. But that doesn't let the rest of us  
off the hook...


On Oct 11, 2006, at 11:15 PM, Les Kaufman wrote:

> Boring organisms are invisible snores, but...
> while everybody is snoring, it is easy to forget that there is a
> distinct reef phase- albeit uncommon these days in the Caribbean- in
> which coral reef is reduced to deeply gouged carbonate moonscape, by
> swarms of echinoderm beavers.  What Andrew says about sponges is
> absolutely true- who is examining the effects on clionid excavation
> rates of food web alteration combined with coastal eutrophication?
> Also ignored are endolithic fungi that prey on living corals, and few
> notice that stony coral skeletons are shot through with a complex,
> multifaceted community of fungi, three algal phyla, sponges,
> prokaryotes, and motile fossorials that may well profoundly influence
> colony attachment, submarine cementation, coral health, and the coral-
> fleshy algal relationship.  In the Indo-Pacific, what to us are
> boring clams are to triggerfishes fascinating delicacies; the pig-
> like invertivores pulverize healthy coral beds in hot pursuit of the
> long skinny steamers.   The life and death of coral reefs is baroque
> and filigreed, and never so simple as a paper must be in order to
> pass peer review.
> Folks are dead wrong if they promise that radical reductions in
> nutrient inputs, fishing, and deforestation will completely reverse
> the decline of coral reefs, not while that giant magnifying glass in
> the sky moves diabolically about.  But local stewardship will damned
> straight help, though admittedly to varying degrees, and nobody has
> suggested a single better idea of what to do out in the real world,
> while suits duke it out over carbon units in all the world's tongues
> beside the Hudson River.
> Local communities need scientists willing to stay put long enough to
> teach and set an example, who roll their sleeves and bend their
> shoulders to the tasks of local stewardship alongside those very
> citizens they strive to empower.   That scientists must argue amongst
> themselves to hone their deductive and predictive powers is a given,
> but that is the joy of their craft and worlds apart from what is
> required of them on the beach.  When we're out there counting fish
> and running transects and experiments in the field, let's all take
> the time to become adopted by our host villages and nations, and to
> explain straight up, over and over again, why what they themselves
> can do matters so.  The science may have a very long way to go, but
> the wisdom is already there and has been for centuries.
> Unless, of course, you are truly convinced that those giant moving
> spots of heat and pestilence ultimately and soon will end it all for
> coral reefs no matter what we do.
> Tell us all this: how can marine scientists throughout their careers
> be better communicators and leaders in seaside communities by virtue
> of, and without sacrificing, their scientific credibility?  Those
> among us secured by tenure who do not so speak out should be ashamed
> of ourselves.   As for those who are still at the mercy of their
> seniors, we traditionally exhort junior scientists not to be too
> publicly visible before they get tenure.  So listen: we who are
> voting on your future have little idea what you all are actually
> doing out there in the field, so do some good outside our view lest
> you be penalized for ignoring your studies.  Our careful experiments,
> our scholarly debates- these matter a great deal in the long run.
> But in the trenches, today and tomorrow, it is us as that army of
> muddy, wet, beer-swigging, outspoken leaders who will carry the day.
> Les
> forwarded message:
> All,
>    I hear nothing of the double edged sword that is top-down grazing
> in the presence of plenty of nutrient: the boring/ bio-erosion aspect
> of reef dynamics.
>    In terms of overall reef preservation/restoration there is more
> then just top or bottom... It's more of a 3-D set of dramas.
> Even if the grazers turn out to be the great saviors of living,
> growing coral, based on what i see in Montego Bay the reef structure
> is still crumbling from within so long as the water is full of sponge
> food. And the urchins themselves are no angels.
>    My two cents.
>    Andrew
> Les Kaufman
> Professor of Biology
> Boston University Marine Program
> and
> Senior PI
> Marine Management Area Science
> Conservation International
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