[Coral-List] Reefs of horror / reefs of hope
chwkins at yahoo.com
Tue May 20 14:57:46 EDT 2008
Sarah and Listers:
Much of what has been said below is quite valid. However, I would to point out that if "we know what causes degradation and destruction of coral reefs and their inhabitants" then I question a narrow disciplinary view of coral reef research that states "it is essential that we continue our current research efforts to understand the ecology of coral reefs".
Obviously that part of the equation is very important and should continue, but it does seem to me that addressing the (mostly human-based) causes of coral reef degradation and destruction will not be dependent on yet another biophysical reef study or series of studies. As you point out, we know much of this already.
Given that our conception of what comprises a coral reef ecosystem no longer maintains human benefits and impacts as outside of the ecosystem, we must expand our research paradigm to understand the linkages between humans and the environment.
Before folks say "But we are quantifying impacts and benefits...", let me say that simple, descriptive research into the nature and magnitude of human impacts (for example) gives us only a superficial understanding of this linkage. There are a number of other areas where social research can assist with many of the causes of degradation.
Unfortunately our science and monitoring plans typically (and generally speaking) prioritize and fund research into the biophysical dimensions to the exclusion of the human dimensions, rather than give each appropriate weight and priority and interweave them. What a great coral reef management world it might be if we both acknowledge the human part of the problem (which we are quite good at) AND institutionalize social research that seeks to predict, understand, and address the roots of these problems. Sometimes these roots are attitudinal and value oriented, other times they are economic and sustenance oriented. Sometimes it is a recreational issue, other times it is commercial issue.
The bottom line is that all of these are often interlinked and interlinked again with the environment. A more holistic research tradition may finally will us to comprehensively address these reef horrors. That is my reef hope.
Christopher Hawkins, Ph.D. Candidate
Human Dimensions of Marine and Coastal Ecosystems Program
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Coral reefs are seen and used as a commodity, not
as a resource worth protecting. The coral reefs
and its inhabitants are killed, displaced, sold
as souvenirs, silted, polluted, stepped on, their
entrails removed, blasted off.. . and dont
get me started with global warming.
We know what causes degradation and destruction
of coral reefs and their inhabitants. We also know
that coral reef restoration does not bring
a degraded or destroyed coral reef back to its
pristine condition. And with less than 1 % of the
ocean protected in the form of some sort of
sanctuary (and much less of that is coral reef
sanctuary), there is little hope for a future.
Talking and doing some outreach about the amazing
biodiversity in coral reefs, the resources and
benefits they provide, the need to conserve
Nemos home and so on is simply not enough. It is
essential that we continue our current research
efforts to understand the ecology of coral reefs, and
current conservation and outreach, but we need
to do so more diligently, wisely, and with a
Whether it is greed or ignorance, the world at
large simply is not getting the message. We can sit
and complain about it, and share our reefs of
horror stories (as Tom Williams names them) or we
can do something about it.
So to all coral-listers, please, take some time
today out of your busy schedule, and think
carefully what action are you going to take. Think big,
think tiny, local or globally, dont be afraid
to write down what you think you can accomplish
yourself or with the help of others. Make a plan,
make a shopping list of action items, with a
specific timeline (the next 3-6 months, or by next
year) and then take action. Stand up and be
Then, we can either use coral list or the
upcoming ICRS, and post our action items on some board
at the poster sessions, or brainstorm some more
during the receptions or at the closing banquet. We
can end up with a true plan for action, and
then, do it.
Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D.
Marine Conservaton Scientist
Ocean Research and Conservation Association,
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