[Coral-List] Old palmata and the new controversy over Mumby et al.

Les Kaufman lesk at bu.edu
Tue Nov 6 08:34:24 EST 2007

The best pictures I know of for the old Florida reefs (of many of our  
childhoods) are those of Jerry and Idaz Greenberg.  It is their  
pictures that are in field guides depicting Florida's former  
underwater glories; perhaps these very guides are still being sold at  
Park Headquarters.

Professor Goreau, you should send your comments to Nature, not just  
to Coral List.  One advantage of Mumby et al.'s model is that it is  
something that can actually be tested experimentally.  One way to do  
this is across enforced marine management areas or zoning schemes.   
Marine reserves (no-take areas) are ineffective in keeping out  
bleaching, epizootics, or nutrients, but do cause there to be more  
big herbivores when they are enforced.  What does our experience from  
marine reserves say about this? They say that both nutrient levels  
and grazing pressure can potentially matter.  So, we must ask: does  
the herbivore effect as revealed by the marine reserve experiment  
vary with nutrient levels?

The Marine Management Area Science (MMAS) Program is trying to look  
at this, for example in Belize, where we are finding it revealing to  
compare reefs inside versus outside of marine reserves, and bathed in  
relatively high or low levels of influence by river outflows and the  
Honduran Gyre.  Unfortunately the utility of such a design is  
impaired by variation in the level of enforcement of the marine  
reserves.  It would be good if we communicate to society that the  
abiilty to know how much local conservation efforts can improve coral  
reef health (or for that matter the health of any coastal marine  
habitat) is dependent upon having a good network of marine reserves.   
The role of marine reserves as adaptive management experiments is  
usually at the very end of the list for having them.  In the long run  
it may turn out to be their most important function- resource  
spillover is nice but fleeting, while the certain knowledge that  
either or both watershed and fisheries management will be good for  
the reefs, is priceless.  It is worth substantial effort to transform  
coastal management into an experimental, adaptive process.

Of course, if societies were willing to simply take reasonable  
precautions, this discussion would be academic.  We would already be  
doing everything possible on a local level to conserve coral reefs  
and all of the services they provide us, and could then in good  
conscience turn our attentions to global climate change and perverse  
market forces.  At least the experimental approach can tell us the  
value of local effort, and how to balance conservation efforts  
between local platforms and the global stage.


Les Kaufman
Professor of Biology
Boston University Marine Program
Senior PI
Marine Management Area Science
Conservation International

“I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.”
George W. Bush
Saginaw, Michigan; September 29, 2000

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