[Coral-List] Objective Science?

Szmant, Alina szmanta at uncw.edu
Thu Feb 9 09:03:39 EST 2012

I have watched the coral reefs of Florida, Puerto Rico, MBRS and more recently southern Caribbean lose coral cover year after year since the 1987 major bleaching event, all due to dramatic and prolonged elevated seawater temperature events.  We have now shown that development and settlement  of two dominant coral  species (Acropora palmata and Montastraea faveolata) are seriously affected by temperatures as low as 30 degrees C, and thus spawn from the surviving adult colonies when they do reproduce, will result in fewer larvae and reduced settlement potential.  In my opinion, based on over two decades watching Caribbean corals die from elevated temperature, I think that ocean acidification (OA) is a minor player in the future health of Caribbean coral reefs.  It doesn't kill corals, just slows calcification a bit, and in some species not at all.  The levels of OA that are being used in lab experiments to demonstrate an effect on calcification are soooo next century, and by then, elevated temperature will have decimated coral populations even more.   There won't be many corals left to be affected by decreased pH, and maybe the survivors will be the ones that are not affected by decreased pH.  

In my opinion,  OA is just the most recent band wagon for short attention spanners who got bored of working on temperature effects.  But OA has some big names promoting its significance (good way to loosen up $$ and other currencies), and the band wagon marches on.  I think that papers like the D'eath et al Science paper last year, that with NO EVIDENCE to support their statements, in their discussions invoking OA as THE cause for the decreased rate of calcification they observed in their cores since 1990, during a decade when corals were frequently bleached and stressed by temperature (both of which cause decreased calcification), are totally irresponsible, and makes me totally doubt our current peer review system.  [I could write a whole lot more about everything that is wrong and poorly done in this paper but will stop here].  There is nothing that ticks me off more than bad science!!!

Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Professor of Marine Biology
Center for Marine Science and Dept of Biology and Marine Biology
University of North Carolina Wilmington
5600 Marvin Moss Ln
Wilmington NC 28409 USA
tel:  910-962-2362  fax: 910-962-2410  cell: 910-200-3913

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Bill Allison
Sent: Wednesday, February 08, 2012 10:46 PM
To: GlennPatton
Cc: Coral List
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Objective Science?

At this time temperature seems to be the primary controlling factor. The authors plainly expect calcium to be a limiting factor in the future.
Curious that wasn't mentioned in the abstract but I suppose it would have decreased readership and opportunities for faux-controversy.

Here is the closing para:
"Seawater carbon chemistry is a key determinant of coral calcification, and the potential for future anthropogenic-influenced declines in carbonate saturation state, and hence coral calcification, is cause for serious concern (*2*<http://www.sciencemag.org.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/content/335/6068/593.full#ref-2>,
However, we conclude that the rate of change in the thermal environment of coral reefs is currently the primary driver of change in coral calcification rates. Warming SSTs are resulting in (i) increased calcification rates reported here in the southeast Indian Ocean, where marginal reefs have taken advantage of warmer conditions, and (ii) recent declines reported elsewhere for more typical reef environments where thermal optima for calcification have been exceeded or resulted in setbacks in growth as a result of thermally induced bleaching. Whether the former is sustainable as oceans continue to warm is another question."

On Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 3:53 AM, GlennPatton <glenn at glennpatton.com> wrote:

> FYI, A peer-reviewed study that I have not seen referenced on this list.
> http://www.sciencemag.org/content/335/6068/593.abstract
> Growth of Western Australian Corals in the Anthropocene Timothy F. 
> Cooper, Rebecca A. O’Leary, Janice M. Lough
> Abstract
> Anthropogenic increases of atmospheric carbon dioxide lead to warmer 
> sea surface temperatures and altered ocean chemistry. Experimental 
> evidence suggests that coral calcification decreases as aragonite 
> saturation drops but increases as temperatures rise toward thresholds 
> optimal for coral growth. In situ studies have documented alarming 
> recent declines in calcification rates on several tropical coral reef 
> ecosystems. We show there is no widespread pattern of consistent 
> decline in calcification rates of massive Porites during the 20th 
> century on reefs spanning an 11° latitudinal range in the southeast 
> Indian Ocean off Western Australia. Increasing calcification rates on 
> the high-latitude reefs contrast with the downward trajectory reported 
> for corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and provide additional 
> evidence that recent changes in coral calcification are responses to 
> temperature rather than ocean acidification.
> Other info about the study.
> http://www.sciencemag.org/content/suppl/2012/02/01/335.6068.593.DC1/Co
> oper.S
> OM.pdf
> http://data.aims.gov.au/metadataviewer/faces/view.xhtml?uuid=4f39c641-
> 8450-4
> ea0-b2b6-4f3d582645f8
> Other references to this study.
> http://www.australianclimatemadness.com/2012/02/warmer-waters-good-for
> -coral
> -growth/
> http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=corals-more-threatene
> d-by-t
> emperature-than-acidifying-ocean
> Best regards,
> Glenn Patton
> www.glennpatton.com
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

Is this how science illuminates "reality"? - "the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the talk which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze."
- narrator's comment about Marlow's tale-telling, in Heart of Darkness
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