[Coral-List] Shinn-Don't be such a scientist, Coral Reefs, and The Wall Street Journal from Coral-List Digest, Vol 41, Issue 7

Jack Sobel jack_sobel at verizon.net
Tue Jan 10 11:16:51 EST 2012

I was curious about what scientific issues presented in the Wall Street
Journal Gene Shinn was referring to in his "Don't be such a scientist" post.
Since he didn't provide a link or reference, I tried tracking down the Wall
Street Journal reference he mentioned by googling "Wall Street Journal Coral
Reefs" and searching the Wall Street Journal.  At first, I had difficulty
locating the source he was referring to, finding only the items below that
don't seem to support his perspective:
1. Video - Ocean Acidificaton Threatening Coral Reefs - WSJ.com 
online.wsj.com/.../A3308FCE-1816-42D5-89D2-E4312818C818.ht...Cached Known as
the rain forests of the sea, coral reefs teem with life. Now, scientists say
these important habitats are under threat. WSJ's Science Journal columnist
2. Scientist Keeps an Eye on Coral From 60 Feet Down - WSJ.com 
online.wsj.com/.../SB1000142405274870386500457564887129377...Cached -
Similar... Herbivorous fish that eat algae are important to coral reefs
because if algae ...
3. A Look Into Future Oceans - WSJ.com 
online.wsj.com/article/SB124051938218949231.htmlCached - Similar Apr 24,
2009 - Known as the rain forests of the sea, coral reefs teem with life.
Now, scientists say these important habitats are under threat. WSJ's Science
4. In the Coral Camp - WSJ.com 
online.wsj.com/.../SB1000142405297020401200457707044043858...Cached Dec 1,
2011 - WSJ.com.... Coral reefs can' t just flee, and reefs around the world
are in decline due to ...

I did finally track down the Wall Street Journal piece to which he referred.
It turns out that this was not an article, but rather a column or opinion
piece.  Furthermore, the column cherry picks the science in the
peer-reviewed pieces it references, failing to mention for example, the
primary conclusion in one of them that "Calcifiers remain at risk, however,
owing to the dissolution of exposed shells and skeletons that occurs as pH
levels fall. Our results show that tissues and external organic layers play
a major role in protecting shells and skeletons from corrosive sea water,
limiting dissolution and allowing organisms to calcify10, 11. Our combined
field and laboratory results demonstrate that the adverse effects of global
warming are exacerbated when high temperatures coincide with acidification."

Jack Sobel
4910 Earlston Drive
Bethesda, MD  20816
Phone: (301)320-0880
Cell: (202)262-6926     

Email: jack_sobel at verizon.net

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Today's Topics:

   1. fact-checking -  Acropora prolifera (Sergio Vargas)
   2. Don't be such a scientist (Eugene Shinn)


Message: 1
Date: Sat, 07 Jan 2012 18:09:33 +0100
From: Sergio Vargas <sevragorgia at gmail.com>
Subject: [Coral-List] fact-checking -  Acropora prolifera
To: martin.pecheux at free.fr, coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Message-ID: <4F087C4D.2080306 at gmail.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed

>Hello dear Vassil and John. Interresting. I there a good synthesis on
hybrids in corals, and their reactions ? What references otherwise ?

Willis, Bette L, Van Oppen, Madeleine J.H, Miller, David J, Vollmer, Steve
V, Ayre, David J. 2006. The Role of Hybridization in the Evolution of Reef
Corals. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 37 (1) pp. 489-517


Sergio Vargas R., M.Sc.
Dept. of Earth&  Environmental Sciences
Palaeontology&  Geobiology
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit?t M?nchen
Richard-Wagner-Str. 10
80333 M?nchen
tel. +49 89 2180 17929
s.vargas at lrz.uni-muenchen.de
sevra at marinemolecularevolution.org

check my webpage:

check my research ID:


Message: 2
Date: Mon, 9 Jan 2012 10:39:46 -0500
From: Eugene Shinn <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Subject: [Coral-List] Don't be such a scientist
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Message-ID: <a06230932cb2e4edb68e5@[]>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" ; format="flowed"

I missed the 60 minutes program because I was at sea when it aired. I
nevertheless wonder if they discussed any of the scientific issues presented
in the WSJ (below). or the lengthy technical presentation 
at   http://co2science.org/subject/o/acidificationphenom.php.  Gene

>>Source:  WSJ
>>[SPPI Note:  More in-depth papers on this issue can be found at the 
>>SPPI website:
>>C02 Science's Ocean Acidification Database Quantifying the Effects of 
>>Ocean Acidification on Marine Organisms Effects of Ocean Acidification 
>>on Marine Ecosystems Answers to a Fisherman's Testimony about Ocean 
>>Acidification EPA's Role in Protecting Ocean Health Should Focus on 
>>the "Here-and-Now" Threats See also CO2 Science website for reviewed 
>>papers on the topic
>>WSJ text beings here:
>>Coral reefs around the world are suffering badly from overfishing and 
>>various forms of pollution. Yet many experts argue that the greatest 
>>threat to them is the acidification of the oceans from the dissolving 
>>of man-made carbon dioxide emissions.
>>The effect of acidification, according to J.E.N. Veron, an Australian 
>>coral scientist, will be "nothing less than catastrophic.... What were 
>>once thriving coral gardens that supported the greatest biodiversity 
>>of the marine realm will become red-black bacterial slime, and they 
>>will stay that way."
>>Humans have placed marine life under pressure, but the chief culprits 
>>are overfishing and pollution.
>>This is a common view. The Natural Resources Defense Council has 
>>called ocean acidification "the scariest environmental problem you've 
>>never heard of." Sigourney Weaver, who narrated a film about the 
>>issue, said that "the scientists are freaked out." The head of the 
>>National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls it global 
>>warming's "equally evil twin."
>>But do the scientific data support such alarm? Last month scientists 
>>at San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography and other authors 
>>published a study showing how much the pH level (measuring alkalinity 
>>versus acidity) varies naturally between parts of the ocean and at 
>>different times of the day, month and year.
>>"On both a monthly and annual scale, even the most stable open ocean 
>>sites see pH changes many times larger than the annual rate of 
>>acidification," say the authors of the study, adding that because good 
>>instruments to measure ocean pH have only recently been deployed, 
>>"this variation has been under-appreciated." Over coral reefs, the pH 
>>decline between dusk and dawn is almost half as much as the decrease 
>>in average pH expected over the next 100 years. The noise is greater 
>>than the signal.
>>Another recent study, by scientists from the U.K., Hawaii and 
>>Massachusetts, concluded that "marine and freshwater assemblages have 
>>always experienced variable pH conditions," and that "in many 
>>freshwater lakes, pH changes that are orders of magnitude greater than 
>>those projected for the 22nd-century oceans can occur over periods of 
>>This adds to other hints that the ocean-acidification problem may have 
>>been exaggerated. For a start, the ocean is alkaline and in no danger 
>>of becoming acid (despite headlines like that from Reuters in 2009: 
>>"Climate Change Turning Seas Acid"). If the average pH of the ocean 
>>drops to 7.8 from 8.1 by 2100 as predicted, it will still be well 
>>above seven, the neutral point where alkalinity becomes acidity.
>>The central concern is that lower pH will make it harder for corals, 
>>clams and other "calcifier" creatures to make calcium carbonate 
>>skeletons and shells. Yet this concern also may be overstated. Off 
>>Papua New Guinea and the Italian island of Ischia, where natural 
>>carbon-dioxide bubbles from volcanic vents make the sea less alkaline, 
>>and off the Yucatan, where underwater springs make seawater actually 
>>acidic, studies have shown that at least some kinds of calcifiers 
>>still thrive-at least as far down as pH 7.8.
>>In a recent experiment in the Mediterranean, reported in Nature 
>>Climate Change, corals and mollusks were transplanted to lower pH 
>>sites, where they proved "able to calcify and grow at even faster than 
>>normal rates when exposed to the high [carbon-dioxide] levels 
>>projected for the next 300 years." In any case, freshwater mussels 
>>thrive in Scottish rivers, where the pH is as low as five.
>>Laboratory experiments find that more marine creatures thrive than 
>>suffer when carbon dioxide lowers the pH level to 7.8. This is because 
>>the carbon dioxide dissolves mainly as bicarbonate, which many 
>>calcifiers use as raw material for carbonate.
>>Human beings have indeed placed marine ecosystems under terrible 
>>pressure, but the chief culprits are overfishing and pollution. By 
>>comparison, a very slow reduction in the alkalinity of the oceans, 
>>well within the range of natural variation, is a modest threat, and it 
>>certainly does not merit apocalyptic headlines.


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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