[Coral-List] NOAA Finds 66 Corals Warrant Listing under the US Endangered Species Act

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Thu Dec 6 09:04:05 EST 2012

Awhile back, I was at a NOAA meeting where we discussed the pros and cons
of listing *Acropora*. At the time, I found myself thinking that we had the
wrong coral inasmuch as *Acropora* had shown a propensity to come and go
throughout the Holocene. In contrast, *Montastraea* had a long and
uninterrupted record and was also showing signs of checking out in the core
Caribbean..... but was being largely ignored. Come to think of it, nobody
took Bill Gladfelter seriously about White Band when it was "only on St.

Back to *Acropora*..... from all of the cores published for the Caribbean,
we have only 1 (as many as 4 if you allow for 2-sigma errors) published *A.
palmata* date between 5,800 and 5,200 CalBP (~6k die-off) and NONE between
~2,900 and 2,400 Cal BP (~3k die-off). Before Gene asks, I don't *believe* *A.
palmata*'s on a 3k cycle and we're just due.... but that could be a very
interesting discussion if we were going to be strictly empirical about
it. But, I digress.... Sorry!

At the NOAA meeting, someone explained that "threatened" was actually a
more useful status than "endangered" inasmuch as it gave us more options to
study *Acropora* and perhaps find a reason for its demise - rather than
just keeping people far from areas where it occurs. Perhaps someone closer
to these policy intricacies could explain exactly how this works, what the
"promotion" to endangered will do for *Acropora* in practical means given
its present condition, and the pros and cons of deciding between the two
levels given our best assessment of what is the cause and, therefore, the
best solution. Other than making access harder for legitimate science, I'm
concerned that we'll see a rise in people using the presence of these
corals to protect a favorite spot that they can't get attention for
otherwise. Not that I'm against habitat preservation (I think it's a more
important target than species diversity), but the public backlash will make
it easier for the general public to lose site of the core issues.

It strikes me that corals are different than bald eagles, so just keeping
people away from them may not make enough difference difference (I haven't
seen stories on CNN about snail darters taking over the suberbs yet) . My
last aside (sorry)..... do I remember correctly that the turkey was
originally suggested for the US's official bird? Maybe a better choice?

Sorry, it's late in the day - and thinking about policy issues just turns
my brain to mush!!


On Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 2:08 PM, Eugene Shinn <eshinn at marine.usf.edu> wrote:

> Dear Coral-Listers, I am still waiting for someone to explain how
> listing 66 coral species and elevating Acropora sp to endangered
> status is going to enhance their growth. We can only hope that
> listing may open taxpayer's pocket books to accomplish research aimed
> at discovering exactly what ails these corals. But, will listing fix
> the problem if the cause is discovered? Such research may take place
> if researchers have the time and patience to obtain the necessary
> research permits. Some excellent fieldwork has already suggested
> genomic effects allow certain individuals to thrive. In other words
> the strong will survive.  Warming seas of course is one of the usual
> suspects but unfortunately listing will not solve that problem.
>       We should all commend those who have made important discoveries
> already by transplanting hardy individuals to special underwater
> racks and clotheslines.  These are important
> discoveries/demonstrations that indicate hardy individuals will
> eventually repopulate the reefs as they have done repeatedly during
> the past 6.000 years.  An interesting and surprising outcome of these
> coral garden experiments is accelerated growth even while growing in
> the same water that was supposed to be killing them. Listing clearly
> will not change that.  We should be thankful that most species, at
> least in the Atlantic, are already protected from physical abuse in a
> number of sanctuaries and MPAs. The question we should ask is, will
> adding another layer of expensive tax-supported government
> bureaucracy and specialized lawyers be helpful? Will another layer of
> government bureaucracy that cannot save these corals keep us from
> going over the fiscal cliff?   Yes, there will be 18 public hearings.
> How much that will cost? In  my experience these hearing exercises
> are a form of group therapy that simply softens the blow of larger
> expenses that follow.  I guess what will be will be.  It is a done
> deal like it or not.  Gene
> --
> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> ------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> University of South Florida
> College of Marine Science Room 221A
> 140 Seventh Avenue South
> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
> Tel 727 553-1158----------------------------------
> -----------------------------------
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Dennis Hubbard
Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
(440) 775-8346

* "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
 Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"

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