[Coral-List] Thank you for the threats!

Rupert Ormond rupert.ormond.mci at gmail.com
Wed Apr 23 04:48:41 EDT 2014

Dear Coral-listers,

Please pardon some additional comments on the lists that have been offered.

One or two contributors have commented that some of the threats (e.g. 
human over-population) are rather different in nature than others (e.g. 
coral predation).

These differences can be accommodated in an improved model / list if one 
distinguishes between, PRIMARY, SECONDARY and TERTIARY level threats.
A primary threat would be something like predation or coral disease that 
affects the reefs directly.
Coastal Development would be a secondary level threat, that might 
generate various primary threats.
Human Overpopulation is a tertiary level threat, that generates various 
secondary level threats, such as coastal development and overfishing.

May I add that there is also ambiguity in the use of the word "THREAT".
In this discussion it seems to be being used in the sense of existing 
current IMPACTS.
Originally threats was used in the ecology literature to refer to 
effects that were likely to happen, the link to exisiting impacts being 
that the new impacts most likly to happen in an area would be those 
already occurring elsewhere.

This may seem like semantics, but when we talk to non-biologists 
including politicians about "threats to reefs" (or other environments), 
they are inclined to assume that we are talking about things that have 
not yet happened.
In consequence they may not respond with the urgency we would like!

Rupert Ormond**

Corresponding Secretary, International Society for Reef Studies.

Hon. Professor, Centre for Marine Biodiversity & Biotechnology, 
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

Research Professor of Marine Conservation, King Abdul-Aziz University, 
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

On 14/04/2014 19:35, Sarah Young wrote:
> Dear Coral List,
> A huge thank you to everyone who responded to my request for information on
> coral expert perceptions of the major threats to coral reefs.  I should
> have anticipated I was opening a can of worms!   Just in case anybody else
> is interested I found these three publications the most useful, based on
> date published, sample size or the number of coral reef based institutions
> involved:
> Brainard, R.E., Weijerman, M., Eakin, C.M., et al. (2013). “Incorporating
> Climate and Ocean Change into Extinction Risk Assessments for 82 Coral
> Species”. Conservation Biology, 27:6:1169-1178.* – Tiny sample but adoption
> of results by wider coral community, recently published and ranked data.*
> 1. Ocean warming,  2. Disease,  3. Ocean acidification, 4. Reef fishing –
> trophic effects, and 5. Sedimentation.
> Wilkinson, C. (2008). Status of coral reefs of the world: 2008. Global
> Coral Reef Monitoring Network and Reef and Rainforest Research Centre,
> Townsville, Australia, 296 p.* – no methods on how impacts are prioritized
> (unranked), Caribbean region split into subsections with different threats,
> authoritative publication.*
> Coral bleaching, Excess sediment and nutrient discharges, Disease, Coastal
> development and Hurricanes.
> Kleypas, J.A. & Eakin, M.C. (2007). “Scientists’ perceptions of threats to
> coral reefs: results of a survey of coral reef researchers”. Bulletin of
> Marine Science, 80:2:419-436. *– 10 years out of date (data collected in
> 2004) but good purposive sample and ranked data.*
> 1.  Human population growth, 2. Coastal development, 3. Algal competition,
> 4. Overfishing, and 5. Laws and enforcement.
> As you can see these publications emphasis 11 different threats.  Our
> message is not very clear.
> Isaac Westfield raised a good point – the scale at which you are looking at
> threats makes a difference to the consensus you can achieve between
> experts, you would predict the larger the scale, the greater the consensus
> (or aggregation). It will be interesting to see if there is more consensus
> among the general public as to what threatens reefs.
> The aim of the exercise is to help prioritise proactive and effective
> responses in resource limited management environments.  In those situations
> it is useful to be as specific (locally appropriate) as possible about the
> threats and impacts and trust that the implementation process is robust
> enough to deal with differences of opinion.  By robust I mean all those
> delicious principles of good governance we aim for (participation,
> accountability, transparency etc.).  In the same breath we are desperately
> trying to avoid simplifying threats to a list.  The last thing we want is
> policy makers deciding, ‘if we tackle the top two things on this list
> everything will be ok’ (assuming it is even possible to address 'climate
> change' and 'human population growth').  It is challenging to portray the
> links, synergies and accumulative effects multiple stressors have on
> complex marine systems such as coral reefs without confusing people into
> inertia.
> Dennis Hubbard makes another excellent point about how perceptions of
> threats change given distance from impact … perceptions change along any
> number of lines – the usual demographic suspects, but also value
> orientation, life experiences, knowledge on a subject, interest in it, the
> degree to which you believe a threat impacts your sense of autonomy etc.
> There are volumes of psyc journals written about perceptions of risk and
> how these link to behavioural outcomes.  I personally believe that
> perceptions have a much greater influence on human behaviour than any
> ‘objective reality’ of a threat…. Which means that knowing what people
> think is impacting coral reefs is just as important as knowing the primacy
> of a particular driver.....
> Thank you to Clive Wilkinson for his list of lists! Gene will be pleased to
> know that at least one person mentioned African Dust! Alina Szmant – people
> are not the problem – they are the solution…..
> Thanks again and best wishes,
> Sarah
> Marine social psychologist
> Future of Reefs in the UK Overseas Territories
> Marine Ecosystems and Governance Research Group
> Newcastle University
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