[Coral-List] "Unsung Heroes" of Coral Reef Research and/or Conservation

Arthur Webb arthur at sopac.org
Fri Oct 5 22:00:52 EDT 2007

High Jim,

I have been watching the coral list for a couple of years now and would 
congratulate you and all others involved on what an excellent resource 
the list is!

I'm interested in your call for stories regarding research and work on 
reef systems and really just wanted to highlight a field which I have 
not seen discussed on the list but is intimately linked to coral reef 
health, function and productivity.  I would also add that for us in 
tropical western Pacific, where over 20 Island Nation's lay spread over 
vast tracts of tropical ocean, coral reefs are not just about 
biodiversity, management, conservation or even fisheries - although of 
course these issues are indeed of central importance and they are 
pursued as far as the regions limited resource will allow!  What I would 
like to highlight though, is that coral reefs in the tropical western 
Pacific Islands underpin subsistence lifestyles and the welfare of 
numerous coastal communities and cultures.  Furthermore, in the case of 
our atoll communities which again are numerous and spread throughout the 
region (and represent distinct racial, cultural and language groups, 
some of which have persisted for over 2000 years), global threats to 
tropical coral reef persistence and / or function is equivalent to 
threating their very existence.

The SW Pacific contains 3 of the globe's 4 independent atoll nations and 
many of our other regional nations have atoll island communities as 
well.  Atolls, as I'm sure readers of this list will be aware, are 
composed entirely from coral reef associated, carbonate debris which is 
grown, broken off, transported, accumulated and in some cases naturally 
"cemented" in place to form small and very low-lying land masses which 
sit atop inter-tidal and sub-tidal "fossil" and living reef systems.  
Atoll's have extremely limited terrestrial resources and the cultures 
which have evolved within these environments are inextricably linked and 
shaped by their interaction and dependence on near shore coral reef and 
lagoon environments.  Indeed, these communities likely represent some of 
the only remaining examples of how humans can live truly sustainable (if 
you like "symbiotic") relationships with tropical coral reef 
ecosystems.  An additional important point is that especially in our 
more remote island environments - I imagine these represent some of the 
most ecologically "pristine" reef ecosystems on Earth however, 
irrespective of their isolation and the magnificent modes of living of 
their indigenous subsistence communities, these reefs now appear 
potentially threatened by CC related stress and therefore so are the 
communities that live on these islands.

I'm sure the opportunities here for the wider coral reef research 
community are apparent, especially as we struggle to filter out "noise 
from signal", grapple with natural variability and generally try to 
advance understand of changing pressures on reef ecosystems.  There are 
of course also broader opportunities to focus global attention and 
gather political empathy for the dire need to address the root causes of 
anthropogenic climate change.  I'm not a coral ecologist or biologist, 
but rather my interest and work lays more in trying to decipher how 
tropical shores may be changing and what this means in terms of the 
vulnerability of Pacific coastal communities.  Since our tropical 
Pacific shores are so often composed of carbonate reef debris which is 
continually transported to the beach (coral, shells, forams, calcareous 
algae, etc.) and the beaches themselves are in turn also shaped and 
protected by the way in which living barrier reefs control wave energy 
as in meets the shore, questions of reef function, structure and 
productivity are fundamental to the questions of shoreline response to CC.

Hope this isn't seen as missing the mark, I was inspired by your call re 
"Year of the Reef" and the ongoing CC / coral discussions in the list 
and have simply long wanted to table this linkage to reef research and 
raise awareness of the importance of this issue to our region and 
Pacific community (it's also another rainy Saturday afternoon in 
Suva!).  I trust I may also make some links with any others working on 
similar or related issues and questions and to look at the possibility 
of research opportunities (The South Pacific is one of the least well 
research regions on Earth and even the IPCC has remarked on the scarcity 
of climate change related research specific to the SW Tropical Pacific 
region).  My present work area invariably gets "lumped" with the Coastal 
Geomorphologists but these questions of shorelines which are sustained 
and shaped by living reefs really require collaborative approaches to 
ecology and physical processes.

Anyway, food for thought - regards,


**Arthur Webb
*Coastal Processes Adviser
Ocean & Islands Programme
***Pacific**** ****Islands**** Applied Geoscience Commission****

Jim Hendee wrote:
>   Hmm, I guess the argument could legitimately be made that ALL coral 
> reef conservationists are "unsung" except maybe the Cousteau family!  
> So, I'd be happy to receive ANY sketches with photos (see below) on work 
> done around the world, if you'd like to send them.  Remember that this 
> will be exhibited during the International Year of the Reef, so it would 
> be nice to receive representative pieces from all oceans.
>     Thanks!
>     Cheers,
>     Jim
> Jim Hendee wrote:
>> Greetings, Coral-Listers!
>>     I would like to put together a Web presence for the "unsung heroes" 
>> of coral reef research and/or conservation, in time for the 
>> International Year of the Reef in 2008.  Ideally, the various nominees...
>> 1)  ...represent a person or group that you feel has contributed 
>> significantly to preserving coral reef ecology, but who has not received 
>> much recognition (whether or not they feel they deserve or want it).
>> 2)  ...all together would represent coral reef areas that are both 
>> remote, as well as heavily visited, in all three oceans.
>> 3) ...don't mind sharing pictures of themselves as well as their endeavors!
>>     If you have such people or groups in mind, please send me a 
>> paragraph describing why you think they are an unsung hero, what their 
>> accomplishments are, and a photo or two, or links to such photos.  If 
>> you  can have such a person or group include a note stating to the 
>> effect that they don't mind sharing their picture(s), that would 
>> certainly be helpful.  When you send these materials, please include 
>> "unsung hero" in the subject heading so I can keep it better organized.
>>     Thanks!
>>     Cheers,
>>     Jim
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