[Coral-List] New report says Coral Reefs Could be Decimated by 2100

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Fri Dec 21 15:18:55 EST 2012

Indeed, it seemed strange to me for them to be predicting the demise of
coral reefs 87 years from now, when others have predicted mass coral
bleaching to start killing corals in serious amounts in just 20-30 years,
if we don't start some serious action quickly.  An ounce of prevention is
worth a pound of cure.  The economics indicate that starting early reduces
the cost, and the cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action.

Their prediction is based on the reduction in pH and carbonate saturation,
probably aragonite.  That is important for the growth of corals, and for
dissolution of reef material, as well as for other calcifiers.  I think
this illustrates the view of some that mass coral bleaching is likely to
kill many or most corals before pH and carbonate saturation have large
effects (pH is already probably having smaller effects).

Which brings me to the discussion of bioerosion.  Bioerosion is in my view,
indeed very important for reefs, as was clearly pointed out.  However, it
is primarily important for reef construction, that is, geology, and less
important for the coral reef ecosystem, the living components.  The geology
is not only important for understanding reefs, but coral reefs provide
shoreline protection, one of the three largest ecosystem services of coral
reefs, including tourism and fisheries as well as shoreline protection.
 Without reefs to break wave power, shorelines will erode rapidly.  This is
part of why sea level rise is such a huge threat, the deeper the water on
the reef crest and reef flat, the faster shorelines will erode because wave
energy dissipation is less the deeper the water (less drag on the waves).
 Protecting shorelines is very expensive, many countries can't afford it,
and ultimately it will fail.  Plus it makes places much less attractive to
tourism, a major income earner.
      The loss of corals from mass coral bleaching will reduce the ability
of reefs to produce carbonate and build the reef and compensate for
bioerosion.  It will also reduce rugosity as dead corals disintegrate.
 Reduced rugosity will reduce wave power dissipation, and increase wave
power at the shoreline and thus rates of shoreline erosion.
      Loss of corals will reduce rugosity and thus carrying capacity for
food fish (since fish require hiding places from predators) and thus reef
fisheries.  Loss of corals and fish will greatly reduce attractiveness to
tourism.  Some small fish species are absolutely dependent on corals for
habitat and/or food and will go locally extinct when corals die.
      We are facing the threat of major losses of the ecosystem services of
coral reefs to people, from multiple aspects of the effects of CO2
emissions.  Coral reef ecosystem services are estimated at $30-300 billion
a year, we can't afford to loose them.  Much of these services go to poor
countries who are the least able to afford the losses.
      I agree that the fight to save reefs is an uphill fight.  There is no
guarantee we will succeed.  However, if we don't fight to save them, it is
pretty well guaranteed we will loose.  Most things that are worth fighting
for are not easy.  Like President Kennedy said about going to the moon, we
don't choose to do this because it is easy.  I will fight with all I have
to the end, I will go down with the ship if it goes down.  We need every
tool we can get that can help, because no one tool can do the job.  We need
them all.  I believe the Endangered Species Act is one such tool, one of
many.  On the one hand people are worried it's going to shut everything
down, you won't be able to go near the water, and on the other hand some of
the same people think it will do no good.  I suggest neither is likely, I
don't think its going to impact coral imports or aquaculture of corals
significantly, nor research.  I agree it is unlikely to save the corals all
by itself, but it has the power to help.  I agree there are problems, like
identifying coral species and coral taxonomy.  We can look for excuses to
not make it work, or we can try to make it work.  I've given you a list of
ways it can help.  It has worked well for many species.

Cheers,  Doug

On Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 8:29 AM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:

> Dear Doug,
> You know how I feel about this.
> As we approach the end of yet another year of nonintervention in responseto these all too common revelations, what can we do to change the
> paradigm?  At least in this country, efforts aimed at dealing with
> climate change remain politically untenable. Perhaps dare I say, on par with
> sacrilegious efforts at restraining the second amendment. And that's with
> the aftermath of Sandy and Sandy Hook staring us in the face.
> Recently I've been involved in efforts at getting the leaders of the
> scuba diving industry to publicly recognize that climate change is real
> and a threat to coral reefs as indicated by the recent consensus statement
> issued by the ICRS.  But to no avail, the topic is viewed as a
> non-starter.  So if an entire industry that to some extent relies on coral
> reefs for their economic viability can't bring themselves to  recognize the
> realities of the issue, how can we expect others not so intimately involved
> to react appropriately?
> Of course your article is pointing almost a century down the road. Maybe
> I'm showing my age because somehow it appears to me to be right around the
> corner.
> Cheers indeed,
>   Steve
> -----Original Message-----
> >From: Douglas Fenner **
> >Sent: Dec 20, 2012 10:22 PM
> >To: coral list **
> >Subject: [Coral-List] New report says Coral Reefs Could be Decimated by
> 2100
> >
> >
> http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/12/coral-reefs-could-be-decimated-b.html
> >
> >There are some links to various things, "prepared" is the link to this
> >project.
> >
> >Cheers, Doug
> >
> >--
> >Dept. Marine & Wildlife Resources, American Samoan Government
> >PO Box 7390
> >Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799 USA
> >_______________________________________________
> >Coral-List mailing list
> >Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> >http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> ****

Dept. Marine & Wildlife Resources, American Samoan Government
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

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