[Coral-List] Rau, McLeod and Hoegh-Guldberg and ensuing discussion

Rom Lipcius rom at vims.edu
Tue Sep 4 14:18:42 EDT 2012

Dear Peter and Colleagues:

This has been an issue with which I've struggled for many years while dealing intensively with blue crab and oyster restoration. The approach that I advocate is somewhat of a variant of what you suggested, but with some differences. Specifically, when dealing with management agencies, I set up not just one scenario, but a series of scenarios and their consequences. 

For instance, on OA/CC I would set up a series of scenarios ranging from OA/CC is not significant to OA/CC is occurring at a very fast rate, and additional scenarios with low and moderate rates. Then, you set up the potential management actions, and consequences of following/not following the management actions/inaction. These are presented to the managers/public/etc.

From these, you as a scientist can identify which scenarios are most likely, their consequences, and your recommendations on the management actions. Here you can be as vocal as you see fit.

This approach is not unlike what we do with the null hypothesis table and type I/II errors. What are the risks of accepting/ rejecting a specific hypothesis if it is actually true/false? This approach has also been used in risk assessment for environmental pollutants, etc.

I also discuss these and my views with conservation NGOs, who typically take the extreme conservation view. This is useful because in my experience my recommendation is usually not as extreme, and therefore viewed as much more reasonable and acceptable by management and fishers than the recommendation of the conservation NGOs. This is a very useful partnership when attempting to influence restoration actions.

Gotta go, but I hope this helps.



Romuald N. Lipcius
Professor of Marine Science
Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary
P.O. Box 1346, Gloucester Point, VA 23062
for deliveries: 1208 Greate Road, Gloucester Point, VA 23062
804-684-7330 (office), rom at vims.edu

On Sep 4, 2012, at 10:29 AM, Peter Sale wrote:

> Hi,
> I just finished reading Denny Hubbard's reflections on how he, as a reef 
> scientist, is dealing with the likely CC and OA impacts on reefs 
> worldwide.  I had got to Coral-List right after reading Rau, McLeod and 
> Hoegh-Guldberg, and an editorial, "Clarion Call", in the same issue of 
> Nature Climate Change that suggested it might now be time for the science 
> community to become less reticent about articulating the risks of not 
> making intelligent decisions re Climate Change.  In fact, the editorial 
> stated, quite clearly, that the science community should advocate for 
> radical action on climate change.  Rau et al, in a 'perspective' article, 
> do take a clear position on the need to investigate novel ways of dealing 
> with the effects of climate change on marine systems.
> I've done this reading in the middle of a discussion with several 
> co-authors on the degree to which we should advocate in the paper we are 
> now writing on the general issue of global change impacts on tropical 
> marine ecosystems and their provision of goods and services to coastal 
> human communities.  The opinions within our group range from 'science must 
> be dispassionate and objectively report the data' to 'it is way past time 
> to tell it like it is'.
> My gut tells me the latter view is correct, but I also worry that we not 
> reduce expert science evidence to the level of 'just another opinion'.  (I 
> also want to see our manuscript published!) More generally, I think the 
> big question for the coral reef science community has to be, "How do we 
> report our science objectively and dispassionately while still being able 
> to express our considered opinions carefully yet explicitly?"  This is a 
> large part of the issue that Denny Hubbard is struggling with, and its one 
> many of us struggle with.  My own belief is that it should be possible to 
> structure manuscripts, presentations and formal testimony with clearly 
> separated sections: 1) Here is the science, and my objective evaluation of 
> the data, including conclusions logically drawn, 2) Here is my informed 
> opinion/recommendation based on my analysis, and my broader knowledge of 
> the topic.  So long as these two sections are kept separate, we should be 
> able to maintain our integrity as scientists, while still conveying our 
> opinions/recommendations to policy-makers and the public.
> I'd be interested in what others think.  Given the increasingly dim 
> prospects for coral reefs surviving the Anthropocene, those of us who are 
> not automatons (nearly all, I hope) have a pressing need to help find an 
> effective way forward.
> Peter Sale
> Peter F. Sale
> Assistant Director
> United Nations University
> Institute for Water, Environment and Health
> www.uwindsor.ca/sale           www.petersalebooks.com
> UNU-INWEH  The United Nations Think Tank on Water
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