[Coral-List] Cooling reefs to prevent bleaching

Mark Eakin Mark.Eakin at noaa.gov
Mon Jan 5 15:46:30 EST 2009


You are absolutely right that ideas such as cooling of reefs brings  
with them disadvantages.  So is your recommendation that we instead do  
nothing but watch?

There is no doubt that we need to take two sets of action to deal with  
the increasing temperatures that are causing mass bleaching:
1) Reduce CO2 emissions, and eventually atmospheric CO2  
concentrations, to address the root cause of the problem.
2) Take local actions to increase reef resilience in light of thermal  
stress that will happen before we can complete work on (1).

The climate system is like a big ship -- slow to stop or turn around.   
The best estimates are that we will see another 1-2 degrees C of  
temperature rise even if we all stop driving our cars, flying, running  
our computers, breathing, etc. -- right now.  For that reason (1) is  
not enough by itself.  (2) is also not enough by itself as we have to  
address the root cause or we will just keep applying bandages forever.

In light of this, I think we have to consider things like this "crazy  
idea" to help save corals.  No, we would not want to have these things  
pumping all the time for the very reasons you suggested.  However, to  
have such options that we can turn on at times when bleaching is  
imminent makes a great deal of sense.  Yes, the waters will have  
higher nutrients and lower pH.  However, I seem to recall that you  
told me at the Ocean Sciences meeting in Orlando that you thought  
there was no sense even worrying about ocean acidification because  
high temperatures were going to kill the corals first.  If that is  
true, shouldn't we be doing everything we can to turn down the heat  
when it is at its worst?

I have no vested interest in cooling reefs, shading reefs, or swapping  
strains of zooxanthellae. Ideas like this cooling system may be  
exactly what we need when conditions are so bad that a bit of  
nutrients and CO2 are the least of our worries.  Yes, it has some  
downsides, but it may keep the corals alive if it is handled  
properly.  Ditto for ideas of enhancing corals' abilities to withstand  
high temperatures.  "Crazy ideas" like these must be embarked on with  
great care.  However, to throw them out and do nothing would be like  
fiddling while Rome burns.  I'd rather grab a fire hose.


On Dec 21, 2008, at 10:12 AM, James Cervino PhD. wrote:

> Dr Quenton- Brings up serious flaws in the way in which how  
> information is
> interpreted by the masses. Here is another example of how political  
> leaders,
> journalists and the masses think that corals can be saved by a  
> company thereby
> implementing a "cooling system" New Scientist" 2008, to protect and  
> save reefs!
> The Cooling System
> An idea by Atmocean Inc.  has developed a simple pumping system for  
> bringing
> cool, deep water up to the surface. They claim that we could use  
> pumps could
> cool reefs by bringing up deep water, using only wave power.
> This is an example of the insanity, where they claim that it would  
> be feasible
> to implement a pump that brings Cool Deep Nutrient Rich Waters to  
> the surface
> thereby cooling reef off which will prevent them from overheating.
> What about the pH shifts?  This crazy idea would speed up the acidic  
> conditions
> and surely kill the corals and their symbioants. Corals do not have  
> the
> cellular mechanics or " on off switches" to deal with the above water
> chemistry.
> This theory would bring up:
> Low pH (more acidic)
> Low O2
> High Hydrogen Sulfide
> *************************************
> Dr. James M. Cervino
> Pace University &
> Visiting Scientist
> Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst.
> Department of Marine Chemistry
> Woods Hole MA.
> NYC Address: 9-22 119st
> College Point NY NY 11356
> Cell: 917-620*5287
> ************************************

C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
Coordinator, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Center for Satellite Applications and Research
Satellite Oceanography & Climate Division
e-mail: mark.eakin at noaa.gov
url: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov

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