[Coral-List] Conservation versus restoration of coral reefs

Thomas Goreau goreau at bestweb.net
Wed Feb 13 14:05:41 EST 2008

>> From: Thomas Goreau <goreau at bestweb.net>
>> Date: February 2, 2008 1:08:20 PM EST
>> To: coral-list coral-list <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>> Cc: miguel_castrence at fulbrightweb.org
>> Subject: Conservation versus restoration of coral reefs
>> Dear Miguel,
>> Too true, as pointed out in the New York Times article you quote,  
>> just  letting reefs die as a lost cause is the effective result of  
>> the largely unspoken consensus of most of the big conservation  
>> groups,. governments, and funding agencies. At the UN Climate  
>> Change Conference in Bali, the future of coral reefs and low lying  
>> coasts was deliberately and knowingly sacrificed, by those who  
>> simply want to continue business as usual and the profits it  
>> brings them.
>> Since the models being used to project future temperature and sea  
>> level impacts have serious and systematic flaws that cause them to  
>> under-estimate future impacts of global warming, the situation is  
>> more dire than they realize. The predictions being made by the  
>> models for the impacts on coral reefs are mere guesses, not only  
>> do they underestimate the mean rates of increase shown by the data  
>> (which will certainly accelerate) but also they also ignore the  
>> variability of extreme events. An exceptionally hot year or a big  
>> storm will wipe these areas out LONG before mean temperature  
>> change and sea level rise does. No number of papers based on  
>> models in Science and Nature or wishful thinking from IYOR can  
>> reverse this.
>> The bulk of the "managing resilience" fad now underway has nothing  
>> in fact to do with real resilience, in the sense of making corals  
>> more capable of withstanding thermal stress. It is instead a  
>> desperate search for those sites that had less stress to begin  
>> with, due to local weather or circulation patterns, or had already  
>> long lost the stress-sensitive species and therefore superficially  
>> seem to appear more stress-tolerant. As thermal stress increases,  
>> even those few areas lucky enough to have escaped its serious  
>> effects so far will succumb, sooner rather than later, for the  
>> reasons stated above. Nevertheless, after the Indian Ocean tsunami  
>> the World Bank Expert Group on Coral Reef Restoration and the  
>> International Coral Reef Initiative told the countries affected  
>> that restoration is "neither feasible nor prudent" and that they  
>> should do nothing at all, they should just wait and the resilient  
>> reefs would grow back all by themselves. But almost all of the  
>> reefs in these places were already long dead for one reason or  
>> another, and had failed to recover!
>> There is only one method known that can keep corals alive under  
>> high temperatures that would ordinarily kill them. In the Maldives  
>> in 1998 the corals we were growing with our electrical trickle  
>> charging method had 16 to 50 times higher survival than  
>> surrounding reefs (Please note that is TIMES higher survival, not  
>> PERCENT. See T. Goreau, W. Hilbertz, & A. Azeez Hakeem, 2000,  
>> Increased Coral and Fish Survival on Mineral Accretion Reef  
>> Structures in the Maldives after the 1998 Bleaching Event,  
>> International Coral Reef Symposium, abstracts p. 263). Our corals  
>> bleached too, because they were exposed to the same temperatures,  
>> but they did not die, because they had more metabolic energy to  
>> resist stress. Therefore there is a proven way to keep reefs alive  
>> where they would otherwise die, and in our Coral Arks in some 20  
>> countries we are now growing more than 80% of all the coral genera  
>> in the world, despite absolutely no funding whatsoever for serious  
>> coral reef restoration or adaptation work. This work is entirely  
>> being done with very small individual donations and in-kind  
>> funding from concerned locals in poor countries who just want to  
>> keep their corals and fish alive even though the international  
>> community and funding agencies have let them know in the most  
>> tangible possible way that they couldn't care less if they die.
>> Our work has been widely ridiculed as a futile waste of time by  
>> those tossing around the big bucks. They say: if you can't save it  
>> all, what's the point? Our response is: if we don't save all we  
>> possibly can, what will we have left? They say: it is very  
>> dangerous to tell people you can restore reefs because then you  
>> are encouraging them to go and destroy reefs! We respond: that is  
>> like accusing tree planters of causing rainforest destruction!
>> What we can't seem to get these folks to understand is very  
>> simple. We are already way past the point where conservation alone  
>> of what is left can maintain the ecosystem services of coral  
>> reefs. Every Marine Protected Area I've seen is full of dead and  
>> dying corals, and no matter how much money is spent setting them  
>> up and managing them, they are powerless to stop the decline, much  
>> less reverse it. If we don't start large scale restoration we can  
>> kiss our marine biodiversity, fisheries, tourism,beaches, and  
>> shore protection goodbye. Large scale restoration is now our only  
>> hope. But no decision makers or funders seem to get it. Nor will  
>> those who predictably respond to this message saying that marine  
>> protected areas and international campaigns to encourage  
>> resilience are the answer.
>> Best wishes,
>> Tom
>> Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
>> President
>> Global Coral Reef Alliance
>> 37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
>> 617-864-4226
>> goreau at bestweb.net
>> http://www.globalcoral.org
>> On Feb 2, 2008, at 12:00 PM, coral-list- 
>> request at coral.aoml.noaa.gov wrote:
>>> Date: Fri, 01 Feb 2008 09:31:04 -1000
>>> From: Miguel Castrence <miguel_castrence at fulbrightweb.org>
>>> Subject: [Coral-List] The Preservation Predicament
>>> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>>> This recent NY Times article caught my attention, especially this
>>> provocative statement:
>>> "Some conservationists advocate triage, accepting that some
>>> ecosystems, like coral reefs, may not survive in a warmer world, and
>>> putting their efforts elsewhere."
>>> I wonder if such statements could be damaging for our endeavors.
>>> --
>>> Miguel Castrence
>>> PhD Student | UH-Manoa Geography | www.geography.hawaii.edu
>>> Graduate Degree Fellow | East-West Center | eastwestcenter.org
>>> Research Assistant | Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology |
>>> www.himb.hawaii.edu
>>> Coral-List mailing list
>>> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>>> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>>> End of Coral-List Digest, Vol 56, Issue 3
>>> *****************************************
> Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
> President
> Global Coral Reef Alliance
> 37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
> 617-864-4226
> goreau at bestweb.net
> http://www.globalcoral.org

Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
Global Coral Reef Alliance
37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
goreau at bestweb.net

More information about the Coral-List mailing list