[Coral-List] diver distance

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Fri Aug 16 11:20:26 EDT 2013


   It sounds like the SAC and the Sanctuary are developing an ambitious plan to
   restore and conserve coral reefs in the Florida Keys. Its comforting to know
   that comprehensive efforts like these are being formulated. I don't want to
   appear to be a detracting critic as is often the case with email messages
   that can easily be misinterpreted, but I have to ask about my "personal
   favorite".   Not  that  it  is the only issue deserving attention, but
   because science dictates. I noticed in your post that the second methodology
   focuses on the importance of economic factors. The well-founded goal would
   be to maintain the best natural ecology possible while still allowing for
   responsible economic use of natural resources. Is your committee considering
   the promotion of educational outreach related to the impending effects of
   climate change to be among its priorities?  I'm asking because I sincerely
   believe  that  we  can  work on efforts to address this threat without
   sacrificing essential economic opportunities (although admittedly it is
   proving difficult to convince entrenched business interests that these goals
   are   not   mutually   exclusive). I  continue  to  probe  this  topic
   with the conviction that the future of Floridaâs reefs will likely depend on
   efforts that extend even beyond a vision that accounts for extended MPA's
   and the beneficial merger of coral and Diadema restoration technologies.
   -----Original Message-----
   From: Martin Moe
   Sent: Aug 15, 2013 2:59 PM
   To: Steve Mussman , Eugene Shinn , "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov"
   Subject: Re: [Coral-List] diver distance
   I would like to add something to this thread. The discussions
   have  morphed  from the potential of damage from unknowing divers into
   on the declining condition of our coral reefs from natural as well as
   anthropomorphic causation. Maybe in some places we can repair some of the
   damage. Iâm a member of the Sanctuary Advisory Council for the Florida Keys
   National Marine Sanctuary and the SAC and the Sanctuary are working on how
   can protect, maintain and actually restore the coral reefs of the Florida
   The focus of the current rezoning work of the FKNMS and the SAC is on how we
   can preserve and restore our marine ecosystems. We are in the early stages
   developing a plan for the aggressive protection and active restoration of
   our ecosystems.
   We donât have all the answers yet, but things are falling into place. We are
   examining what we can do and where we can do it.

   We are working to achieve marine ecosystem restoration
   through three basic methodologies.
   1/ Review of our already established marine protected zones
   and establishment of additional marine protected, no-take zones that contain
   all the elements of a healthy tropical environment; reef, rubble, sand, and
   seagrass, at various depths as marked and enforced marine protected, no-take
   areas where all species of marine life can attain a natural balance and
   productivity. Human activity, in ways known and unknown, can disrupt and
   behavior  and  survival of many species that are not the target of the
   Zones where the touch of the human hand is light and infrequent allows these
   areas to maintain a natural ecology and to serve as seed banks for the
   region. A case in point is the remarkable recovery and expansion of fish
   populations in the marine protected area of the Dry Tortugas in the span of
   just 5 years. (Implementing the Dry Tortugas National Park Research Natural
   Area Science Plan, The 5-Year Report; 2012).

    2/ However, our
   economy is also important and some of these marine protected areas will use
   regulation, enforcement, education, and outreach to restore, protect, and
   maintain as best a natural ecology as possible while still allowing for
   responsible economic use of these natural resources. This includes active
   management of fishery resources in open zones to protect as best as possible
   the natural ecology of exploited species, such as game fish, food fish and
   invertebrates, and the structure and health of coral reefs.

    3/ Create the
   management and economic structure that will stimulate active restoration of
   coral reef structure, sea grass, and keystone species that are essential to
   restoration of the ecology and ecosystems of the Florida Keys. Much of
   ecosystem restoration is a new science that is currently being developed and
   shows great promise for restoring environmentally resilient strains of
   species of coral reef organisms. It is an emerging technology that requires
   scientific development and flexibility of regulation to allow timely and
   effective experimentation and application of restoration science.

   On this last point, great progress has been made by Ken
   Nedimyer, (Coral Restoration Foundation), The Nature Conservancy, Mote
   Laboratory Center for Coral Reef Research, and other organizations over the
   last 10 years in the propagation of resilient strains of Acropora and other
   coral species; and in the outplanting of these strains on our reefs. These
   efforts have been successful to the point that spawning of the corals that
   have grown into thickets of reestablished
   coral colonies has actually occurred.

   However, with the realization that reestablishment of coral
   colonies without efforts to control pollution from human waste and without
   efforts to restore the ecological environment that allows Atlantic coral
   reefs to
   maintain a functional coral reef ecosystem, we are doing the following. Ever
   since  the establishment of human populations on the Florida Keys, the
   for disposing of human waste and household liquid waste has been first
   and secondly septic systems. Due to the very porous nature of the limestone
   rock  base of the Keys, the nutrients, bacteria, viruses, and chemical
   quickly find their way in to the canals, near shore waters, and even to some
   degree  to  the offshore coral reefs. We have made great and expensive
   in construction of sewer systems in the Keys over the last few years, and
   this process will be
   completed throughout the Keys within two or three years.

   Another critical effort to restore the coral reef ecosystems
   of the Florida coral reefs involves reestablishment of the critical function
   herbivory  to  our reefs. As everyone involved in the study of western
   coral  reefs is well aware, the advent of a decimating disease in 1983
   the billions of long-spined sea urchin, Diadema
   antillarum,  that  populated  the hard bottoms of this vast region and
   eliminated  the function of herbivory on the coral reefs. Not only did
   Diadema control macro algal growth to
   the extent that corals can effectively compete with macro algae for space
   light, the feeding activity of Diadema also cleans substrates down to a hard
   surface, which stimulates the growth of
   crustose coralline algae.This hard
   surface allows settlement and survival of coral larvae, Diadema larvae and
   many other invertebrates as well. Ecological
   restoration of Floridaâs coral reefs will not be possible without the return
   of Diadema to these reefs.

   It was thought that Diadema should return to the reefs within a short time,
   despite the 94 to 98 percent mortality,
   because they are extremely fecund. An adult female can produce between 10 to
   million eggs per spawn and can spawn many times each year. But thirty years
   later the return of Diadema to Caribbean
   reefs  is  small  and  patchy and their return to the Florida reefs is
   represented by
   scattered individuals and very occasional small groups. Reasons for the lack
   of re-population includes low numbers of larvae in the waters of the region
   rapid  overgrowth of macro algae on reefs and hard bottoms. Numbers of
   Diadema larvae in the plankton pre 1983
   must have been immense before the pandemic and their loss may have actually
   changed plankton ecology in this region. The rapid shift on the reefs from
   coral domination to macro algae domination changed the benthic ecology as
   Macro algae all but eliminated exposed hard surfaces, collected a depth of
   sediment  on  these bottoms, and harbored an increased number of micro
   that further reduced the numbers of newly settled Diadema juveniles. Thus
   although Diadema are present on Florida reefs, their numbers are so low that
   they are ecologically extinct.

   With large scale culture of Diadema through the larval stage into juveniles,
   it may well be
   possible to restore them to the reefs. If ecologically effective populations
   of Diadema can be established on selected
   coral reefs along the Florida reef track, and if these populations are
   maintained at ecologically
   functional numbers through artificial recruitment in place of ineffective
   natural recruitment; then there will be coral reef areas where corals can
   and reproduce under the conditions of natural herbivory and Diadema can also
   grow and condition the
   hard substrates for settlement and survival of corals, Diadema and other
   invertebrates. Also under these conditions, Diadema can spawn in the close
   to each other that allows for fertilization of the immense number of eggs
   produced by adult females. Settlement and survival of corals and Diadema
   will increase, and over time,
   the ecologically restored coral reef areas will grow in size, and with the
   increase in larval numbers, new areas of coral and Diadema establishment

   This depends, of course, on the development and
   establishment of the technology and facilities for large scale culture of
   Diadema, and I donât think that the possibility
   of this is very far off. The Mote Center for Coral Reef Research under Dr.
   David Vaughan, in addition to a number of coral restoration projects, and
   myself  in a small home based lab, have been working on developing the
   for Diadema culture for several
   years.  It is a very difficult task but we have both been able to rear
   of Diadema into the stable juvenile
   stage. I have reared them to adults, spawned the hatchery bred adults, and
   reared  the F2 generation to stable juveniles. (A âstableâ juvenile is
   and growing to 1 to 2 cm in test diameter.) For coral reef restoration work,
   however, we have to be able to consistently rear thousands of juveniles that
   are behaviorally capable of survival on coral reefs at least as well as
   naturally settled juveniles. We still have a way to go on very limited
   before we will have accomplished this goal.

   It is a difficult task but the future of Floridaâs reefs
   depends on the merger of the coral and Diadema restoration technology. This
   is not an impossible dream. David Cohen, director
   of the Sea Urchin Hatchery in Honolulu, has been working with a different
   urchin. Tripneustes gratilla, to control macro algae in
   Kaneohe Bay and just recently announced that over 100,000 urchins have been
   released since January of 2011. Hopefully in the not too distant future
   reefs will benefit from a similar program. We will never know if ecological
   restoration of Floridaâs coral reefs is possible if we donât make a serious
   effort to restore Diadema.

   Martin Moe
   From: Steve Mussman
   To: Eugene Shinn ; "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov"
   Sent: Thursday, August 15, 2013 9:15 AM
   Subject: Re: [Coral-List] diver distance
   Dear Gene,
   Yes, in the long term (over geological time) nature has likely been more
   harmful to coral reefs and other ecosystems than humans. But then consider
   the  fact that we humans haven't been here but for a small fraction of
   earth's existence and the proposition turns.
   We really haven't had much time to over-fish, litter, chemically pollute,
   cut down mangroves and dump unhealthy levels of nutrients and sedimentation
   into our coastal waters. And don't forget we haven't been exposing those
   scores of happy snorkelers and divers to the wonders of what used to be
   thriving reefs but for a few fleeting seconds of earth's time.
   So while oodles of money are flowing and the Keys economy is the best you
   have  ever seen, have you ever stopped to consider the picture that is
   emerging for future generations to behold?  What will that ever popular
   Molasses Reef look like three decades from now?
   Maybe I'm just not finding enough comfort in the fact that nature can be
   harmful too.
   -----Original Message-----
   >From: Eugene Shinn
   >Sent: Aug 14, 2013 4:51 PM
   >To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov"
   >Subject: [Coral-List] diver distance
   >Dear Listers, I just spent more than a month diving in the Keys and
   >photographing the corals I have photographed yearly since 1960. Un
   >fortunately there has been no noticeable improvement at those sites
   >(Grecian Rocks and Carysfort Reef). Have spent last few days catching up
   >on e-mail and scanning the various coral list threads. As a geologist it
   >was easy to identify with the comments by Dennis Hubbard. His Caribbean
   >work indicates a coral growth hiatus at 3,000 and 6,000 years bp (before
   >present). In the Keys we have documented a hiatus in /Acropora
   >cervicornis/ growth centered around 3000 years bp as well as one
   >centered at 4,500 ka. The 6 ka hiatus found by Hubbard is not present in
   >Florida Keys reefs because the shelf was being flooded and corals were
   >just beginning to grow at that time. This knowledge is based on Carbon
   >14 dating of corals at the base of coral reef cores. Although dating
   >verifies two major breaks in coral growth there were likely many more
   >during the past 6 ka (thousand years) when the so-called Florida reef
   >tract was being flooded during the world-wide Holocene rise. Frequent
   >waxing and waning occurred during that time because approximately 98
   >percent of that 150+ mile long reef tract has built up no more than 2 m
   >of coral accumulation. That knowledge is based on more than 20 years of
   >high resolution seismic profiling and ground truth coring
   >. In fact, a core adjacent to the
   >Aquarius habitat revealed only 15 cm of accumulation during the past 6
   >ka. In other words biologists studying that area have in fact have been
   >studying a hardground community that looks like a coral reef. That's ok
   >because they would get the same biological results studying corals etc.
   >on a true coral reef accumulation.
   >True reef accumulations do occur in the keys but they are mainly in the
   >form of coral spurs and occur mainly on preexisting Pleistocene bedrock
   >highs. These are the named reefs that have kept pace with sea level rise
   >(about 2 percent of the reef tract). It is the cores of these
   >accumulations upon which our knowledge of Keys coral reef history is
   >based. Clearly there were climate related events (increased hurricanes?
   >fluxes of cold water? warming seas? diseases?) that kept the other 98
   >percent of the reef tract from developing along with those on the
   >bedrock highs.
   >Yes, People have likely affected growth in the past 50-years but that
   >does not prove natural events were not equally harmful. In the long
   >term, as Hubbard says, nature has likely been more harmful than people.
   >During this latest expedition I observed formidable examples of shifting
   >baselines or should we now call it the "new normal"? During our short
   >visit to Grecian Rocks we observed the arrival and departure of at least
   >5 large catamarans each of which disgorged 20 to 30 snorkelers, not
   >including the numerous private boatloads of snorkelers. I estimate that
   >around 200 swimmers snorkeled the leeward side of Grecian Rocks during
   >that day, and this was not even a weekend! I can only surmise that the
   >snorkelers were happy with what used to be a thriving reef and clearly
   >oodles of money was flowing into the Keys economy. After observing all
   >this activity the question of how close a diver should approach corals
   >seems moot. If the water is clear the divers appear to be happy and the
   >keys economy is flourishing like I have never seen during my 60 some odd
   >years of diving there. I wonder what it was like at the really popular
   >reefs such as Molasses reef?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
   >Tel 727 553-1158
   >---------------------------------- -----------------------------------
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   >Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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