[Coral-List] What can SCIENTISTS do??

Martin Moe martin_moe at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 20 14:23:17 EST 2007

What can scientists do?
In general reference to the looming global warming/climate
change catastrophe and in specific reference to the decline of coral reefs --
What can scientists do? This is a very good question. It may be that scientists
can do nothing more than monitor and lament, both of which are very necessary,
but in my naive and altruistic mind there are a number of things that
scientists can do.


First of all I don’t think that the elected governments of
free peoples can lead the charge to take the steps to repair the environment.
Note the use of the word lead. Elected governments of free people govern by the
will of the people, and it is the will of the people that, eventually, leads
the government in directions that benefit the environment and concomitantly, provide
a good future for the people and the country. Totalitarian governments, despite
their bluster, threats, and propaganda, follow the lead and largess of free
nations, thus really, it is up to us, the people of the free world to “save the


And who is it that has provided the knowledge and the tools
and formed the civilization that we now enjoy? Why ultimately, it is the
scientists of course. And deep down people know this, whether they superficially
agree with it or not, and for the most part they respect scientists and the
work that they do. 


I think that there are at least two positive initiatives that
coral reef scientists can develop.


1. Not too long ago, I read a post or two here on Coral List
that caught my attention. They were about the “Role Model for Responsibility”
that the government of American Samoa
developed to guide their citizens into a perilous future. The concept has
merit.  I would suggest that a group of
environmentally knowledgeable and concerned marine and coral reef scientists
come up with a basic “Role Model for Coral Reef Responsibility” aimed at those
that impact coral reefs, through developmental, recreational, and commercial
activity, something that most marine scientists can endorse, that can be used
to guide human interaction with coral reefs and other marine environments. I
know things like this have been done by a number of different organizations
aimed at various activities that impact marine environments, but maybe it would
help to revisit this on a more universal and basic scale. People do respect marine
scientists and the analysis and recommendations of a body of marine scientists on
a fundamental and functional level as to how individuals can help coral reefs
and other marine environments, either through education or action, can make a


2. Actual “hands on” efforts at reef restoration by
carefully trained volunteers can make a difference on small areas of coral
reefs. Under the right conditions of supervision, a specific small reef or a discrete
area of a larger reef formation that has scientific or recreational value could
be “adopted” for restoration by an organization or just a dive group. A few of
the things that can be done are removal of diseased tissue from coral
formations; hand removal of macro algae that competes with coral growth; hand cleaning
of sediment deposits and turf algae from rock surfaces to enhance growth of
coralline algae and settlement and survival of post larval coral and Diadema urchins;
repair, recovery and stabilization of coral formations after strong storms; attachment
and establishment of healthy, farmed coral fragments on the reef area as possible,
placement of juvenile Diadema on the reef for algae control (western Atlantic
reefs), removal of coralivorus invertebrates that might have been controlled by
spiny lobsters or fish, monitoring the results of the work with photographs and
measurements, and publicizing the efforts and positive results to enhance
public awareness of importance of coral reefs.   


And what could be the results of such a project?


1. Establishment and maintenance of at least small areas of healthy


2. Establishment of reef areas where coral larvae can settle
and grow. Currently many if not most reef areas are covered with algae and
sediment and even if a large coral spawn occurs, there is limited success in
settlement and establishment of new colonies. Even small areas of clean reefs
will promote better coral survival.


3. Establishment of areas where coral colonies can remain
healthy over time and spawn actively. A coral colony stressed from the results
of algae competition and overgrowth, bleaching, global warming, disease,
pollution, and predation will not spawn as successfully as a healthy formation.
Maintenance of the best possible condition for a even small areas of coral colonies
will greatly aid the production of coral larvae and juveniles along the Florida reef tract and
other coral reef areas.


4. The presence of Diadema
populations is essential to the health of the western Atlantic reefs.
Establishment of areas where Diadema
can survive and form a nexus for spawning colonies will not only assure the
health of the ecologically restored reef, but the successful spawning of the
maintained Diadema populations will
aid the return of this keystone herbivore to broad areas of coral reefs. Diadema larvae may settle and survive
more successfully on reefs that support an ecologically functional population
of adult Diadema.


5. Although residents and visitors to coral reef areas are
aware of the decline of the reefs and are greatly concerned and desperately
want to do what is possible to reverse the this decline, there is little public
knowledge and information on what can be done. A program such as this will
serve to increase public awareness and active participation in coral reef


7. Publication and promotion of the program will draw
attention to coral reefs, serve an important function as an education,
outreach, and stewardship initiative, promote ecotourism diving through the
opportunity to help in coral reef restoration and maintenance, and provide long
term opportunities for scientific research and comparison between algae
dominated and coral dominated coral reefs.


Your response to my post will be either, “His heart is in
the right place but there’s not a chance in the world that any of this can be
done or would do any good if it was done.” or “Maybe, with some development,
something like this could make a difference to the future of coral reefs, and
we don’t do something like this, what else could we do?” So if my post does
nothing else but start some thinking about what kind of proactive programs for
coral reef restoration can be done, now in our summer of discontent, it will
have been worth the effort.

Martin Moe

----- Original Message ----
From: Alan E Strong <Alan.E.Strong at noaa.gov>
To: Paul Muir <paul.muir at qm.qld.gov.au>
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 10:12:50 AM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] What can SCIENTISTS do??

This is, of course, a generational issue and sadly there are no "quick 
fixes" here...what anyone group/nation does over the next few years 
won't be realized in our reefs/globally for decades -- talk to an 
atmospheric chemist if you do not understand -- the experiment is 
underway unfortunately!  All we can do is slow these trends down as we 
apply "the brakes"....and we must do all we can [afford]!!  My fear is 
that we will tend to get even more skeptical in our impatience for the 
"quick fix."

To be aware of the improvements we make along the way will take careful
monitoring at key sites.

We also must improve our management efforts to maximize recovery and 
keep those dire consequences of climate change as minimal as possible.

As per the Aussie shuttle issue to their marine science 
institution....they are way ahead of the curve already!

These cars are NOT individual cars but car pools of filled cars...3-5 
persons per car that are maintained by the institute.  If only the rest
of us could either make more use of shuttle carpools, telecommuting, 
such as they have employed for years, we would all be better
more use of trains [rather than large trucks.]...etc!!!


Paul Muir said the following on 12/18/2007 11:35 PM:
> What can scientists do?  Perhaps a little more! 
> Here's an amusing example: a certain Australian marine science
> institution (that shall remain nameless!) which issues dire warnings
> about the impacts of climate change. Situated approx 50km from the
> where most of its staff live they use a fleet of around 50 large
> government cars to make the return trip each day. Any suggestions
> they would reduce greenhouse gases and costs by using a couple of
> coaches instead are met with howls of protest and intricate arguments
> that suggest that it would somehow cost more! 
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

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Alan E. Strong, Ph.D.
NOAA Coral Reef Watch, Senior Consultant
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA Coral Reef Watch Program
  e-mail: Alan.E.Strong at noaa.gov
url: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov

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