[Coral-List] Prioritizing impacts to coral reefs

Kaufman, Leslie S lesk at bu.edu
Fri Apr 18 07:24:13 EDT 2014

Several have commented that even with a hard coral die back, much of the physical structure of a coral reef system remains in place for centuries.

A few thoughts on that.

First, that is only true on a large scale.  The surficial rugosity of a coral reef can disappear quite quickly if bioerosive forces supersede accretion, as we’ve observed recently in the warm west Atlantic, and is evident in the Northern Line Islands local human impact gradient from Kingman’s Atoll to Christmas Island.  This means a loss in at least some ecosystem services including shoreline protection and support for fisheries.

Second, the fleshy algal pavements that sometimes replace coral reef communities are also highly productive, though the species that they produce may not be as desirable as what comes from a coral reef community.  Size matters, though, as we’ve found on the Abrolhos Bank of Brazil, where thousands of square kilometers of fleshy algal pavement appear to be supporting a large part of the fishery.  The one caveat is that at least in Brazil and the eastern Caribbean, these FAP assemblages are secured to either vast rhodolith fields or a constructional coralline algal crust, and coralline algae are unlikely to fare so well with acidification.

Finally, I think we already have a more sophisticated grasp of the interplay between global and local human stressors on coral reefs than is evidenced by a prioritized list of impactors.  I’ve forgotten- is this an exercise in science or science communications?


Les Kaufman
Professor of Biology
Boston University Marine Program
Marine Conservation Fellow
Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science and Economics
Conservation International
lesk at bu.edu<mailto:lesk at bu.edu>

More information about the Coral-List mailing list